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Seized in Beirut

The Plundered Archives of the Palestinian Cinema Institution and Cultural Arts Section

Rona Sela

Keywords: art looting; colonial archives; Cultural Arts Section; Israel Defense Forces Archive (IDFA); Palestinian archives; Palestinian Cinema Institution; The United Media

Abstract

One of the biggest acts of plunder by Israel was of a vast Palestinian film archive looted by Israeli military forces in Beirut in 1982. The films are managed under the repressive colonial control of the Israel Defense Forces Archive, which thus conceals many of them and information regarding their origin. This article documents my efforts to disclose the films and locate their institutions in Beirut, to chart their history, name their film-makers and open a discussion about returning them. It also provides a deeper understanding of colonial mechanisms of looting and truth production. I discuss the Third Palestine Cinema Movement and the various institutions that were part of the Palestinian revolution in the 1970s, with a focus on the Cultural Arts Section managed by Ismail Shammout.

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