The Chicago Palestine Film Festival runs Friday, April 16, through Thursday, April 29, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-828-2800. Tickets are $10, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are selected films screening through Thursday, April 22; for a complete schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
Checkpoint Rock: Songs From Palestine Javier Corcuera and Basque musician Fermin Muguruza profile Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories who use music as both a balm and a vehicle for their political discontents. The performers in this 2009 video documentary include hip-hop acts (Dam, Safaa Arapiat, Ayman PR) and more traditional Arabic artists (Le Trio Joubran, Sabreen), their segments linked by the 2008 death of poet Mahmoud Darwish, who gave voice to the disenfranchised. Most of the performance footage, shot on urban hillsides and in recording studios, was created specifically for the documentary, which makes for a serious lack of spontaneity. The title song, written by Franco-Iberian superstar Manu Chao, is delivered in a series of overdubs by the respective participants and comes off as a hokey Palestinian "We Are the World." 73 min. —Peter Margasak Sat 4/17, 8 PM, and Wed 4/21, 6 PM.
Rachel In 2003 the young American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to halt the destruction of Arab homes in Gaza. This video by Simone Bitton begins with isolated details, slowly but effectively building to a broader view of the circumstances surrounding this event—602 homes bulldozed in 2003—until, about halfway through, it turns to a minute examination of the disputed facts of Corrie's killing. One activist points out that while the American's death attracted great media attention, the killing of a Palestinian goes relatively unnoticed, an imbalance reinforced by this 2008 video. A sincere colleague of Corrie's doesn't help matters by reciting a dreadful poem to her over the closing credits. In English and subtitled Arabic and Hebrew. 101 min. —Fred Camper Sat 4/17, 5 PM.
Zindeeq The title of this disjointed existential drama (2009) roughly translates as "nonbeliever." Mohammad Bakri, so strong in Laila's Birthday and Private, is subdued and remote here as a Palestinian filmmaker who now lives in Europe but returns to the West Bank for a project about the 1948 expulsion of Arabs from Israel. Nominally Christian (though disdainful of religion), he drives to Nazareth for his uncle's funeral mass and is soon pulled into a blood feud after his nephew kills a man. Director Michel Khleifi (Wedding in Galilee) seems to have watched too much Antonioni and neglects narrative coherence to focus on themes of alienation and meaninglessness. Surreal touches abound: at the end the filmmaker's former lover (Mirna Awad) appears inexplicably veiled in white and walking on water. In Arabic, Hebrew, and French with subtitles. 85 min. —Andrea Gronvall Fri 4/16, 8:30 PM, and Thu 4/22, 8 PM.