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Chicago Palestine Film Festival

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Now in its fourth year, the Chicago Palestine Film Festival runs Friday, April 15, through Thursday, April 28, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. Following are listings through Thursday, April 21; a full festival schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

FRIDAY 15

R Private

Based on a true story, this tense Italian thriller (2004) explores the divisions that emerge in a Palestinian family after its home becomes occupied by Israeli soldiers. The father (Mohammad Bakri), a well-educated pacifist, insists on staying put as the soldiers try to goad him into leaving, though his wife and children grow increasingly demoralized. The mostly handheld camera totters and jerks as family members pursue their own courses of action, and director Saverio Costanzo shrewdly de-emphasizes the political issues, instead charting the subtle shifts in power between the prisoners and their captors. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) (8 PM)

SATURDAY 16

R The Door to the Sun

Running 258 minutes and showing in two parts, this French-Egyptian drama (2004) covers a half century of Palestinian history with the epic sweep of a TV miniseries. Elias Khoury, who wrote the source novel and cowrote the screenplay, juxtaposes the story of a doctor in Beirut with that of an elderly Palestinian freedom fighter in his care, showing how individuals are shaped by history and vice versa. This is melodramatic, occasionally contrived, and baldly symbolic, but it's also very engaging, with poetic imagery and a dash of magical realism. Yousry Nasrallah directed. In English and subtitled French and Arabic. (HSa) (part one, 2:30 PM; part two, 5 PM)

Arafat, My Brother

From Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi (Haifa) comes this first-person video documentary about two brothers who helped transform the political landscape of the Middle East. Early in the video Masharawi explains on-screen that he's seeking a message of hope and guidance from Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat, but the video maker is barred from Ramallah. In Cairo he meets Arafat's younger brother, Dr. Fathi Arafat, president of the Palestine Red Crescent Society; together they fly to Paris, where a stoic Fathi undergoes chemotherapy for stomach cancer. The doctor shares some family memories, but he's fairly tight-lipped about politics, so Mashawari, still trying to divine the future of Palestine, begins a fictional film within the film. In English and subtitled Arabic and French. 75 min. (AG) (8:15 PM)

SUNDAY 17

R Private

See listing for Fri 4/15. (3 PM)

2000 Terrorists

This documentary from the Netherlands (2004, 50 min.) collects firsthand accounts of the infamous September 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, where some 2,000 Palestinians were slaughtered by Christian militiamen sent in by Israeli forces. Filmmakers Hanro Smitsman and Peter Speetjens unwisely begin by focusing on the International Criminal Court's efforts to prosecute Ariel Sharon, then Israel's defense minister, for war crimes; the legal wrangling detracts from the impact of the eyewitness testimony. Also on the program are Michal Pfeffer and Uri Kranot's bleak but powerful animation God on Our Side (7 min.) and Nahef Awad's documentary short Going for a Ride (2003, 15 min.). In Arabic with subtitles. (HSa) (5 PM)

MONDAY 18

R The Door to the Sun

See listing for Sat 4/16. Only the first part will be shown. (6 PM)

2000 Terrorists

See listing for Sun 4/17. (8:45 PM)

WEDNESDAY 20

R The Door to the Sun

See listing for Sat 4/16. Only the second part will be shown. (6 PM)

THURSDAY 21

Arafat, My Brother

See listing for Sat 4/16. (6:15 PM)

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