From a Refugee Camp to the Red Carpet

A scene from the short film Ambience A scene from the short film Ambience

For a young boy growing up in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, becoming a filmmaker and participating in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival seemed an impossible dream. Yet, for the 27-year-old Wissam al-Jafari, a graduate of Dar al-Kalima University College, this dream became a reality this year at the 72nd Annual Cannes International Film Festival where his short film Ambience won third prize in the Cinefondation competition.

This week, his film is being shown in Los Angeles as part of the widely respected NewFilmmakers of LA monthly film festival alongside other films from the Arab world. Each month, NFMLA chooses documentary, short, and feature films from around the world by new, promising filmmakers to showcase talent and provide an outlet for filmmakers to be recognized for their art. Al-Jafari’s own story echoes the narrative of his short film, which centers around two young musicians in Dheisheh Refugee Camp attempting to record a demo tape for a music competition. Despite their best efforts, their recordings are constantly interrupted by the sounds of the camp – neighbors fighting, the hubbub of daily life, even bombs and gunshots. Deciding to take their situation with humor and grace, the young musicians recorded the sounds of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and transformed that noise into art.



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