Surrey’s film heritage and industry have been growing larger over the past decade as evidenced by the many events attributed to filming in Surrey, and the film schools and all the new talents that are emerging from it. This film industry is becoming more diverse and global, and Surrey Palestine Film Festival is a prime example of how the county is welcoming the international cinema community.

It’s a festival that has been launched by an ambitious group of volunteers, who are kicking off a brand-new event in the county out of pure belief in the power of cinema and culture in transferring people’s perspectives.

Their programme of the day highlights how they value storytelling, as they have picked movies that aim to tell a different story or aspect of Palestinian life and society.

The film screenings will include an array of highly- successful and critically- acclaimed productions (some of which are Academy Award-nominated). The movies include shorts, feature films, and documentaries all of which tell stories about Palestinian people and how they navigate their lives through their traditions, cultures and day-to-day events.

On their website the core team, who all have a direct relation or connection to Palestine, say the festival idea bloomed out of an urge to exhibit that the media’s clichés and stereotypes of Palestinians are not the full picture and that there is a full life beyond politics and conflict in the region.

Rima Schaller Cotran, the team member who first developed the idea, says on the Surrey Palestine website that she was decisive on pursuing the dream of turning her festival idea into a reality as it allowed her “to share the treasure of that culture more widely and open hearts and minds to perspectives that go beyond stereotypes and clichés found in mainstream media”.

The other volunteers are young adults and students (some based in Farnham at UCA) who are an international group of people who came together with the vision of creating exciting new ways to connect the Surrey locals with global film culture.

The festival is on Saturday, December 10 with a full-day event but the team hopes to continue it through yearly events with the next editions being larger and lasting longer. The full-day event will include multiple film screenings, live instrumental music, a luncheon and stalls selling a variety of hand-crafted materials and food products from Palestinian business owners across the country.

The team has made connections with business owners across the country who will be showcasing and selling their hand-crafted objects and home-made food products. The hand-crafted products include Middle Eastern ceramics, Arabic calligraphy arts, traditional Palestinian soaps, dates and olive oil. In between film screenings, all attendees will have the chance to browse the stalls and take some of the products home with them.

During the day there will also be a luncheon mingle for attendees to get the chance to try the taste of the Levant cuisine. A Palestinian family-run restaurant and catering business will lead the luncheon for the day. Traditional and home-made finger dishes such as falafel will be available for everyone to experience while listening to some live instrumental Middle Eastern music.

Excitement over the festival is already plenty, with the amount of support and enthusiasm the Surrey Palestine social media accounts and donations page has been receiving.

Join the excitement and help diversify the historical film industry of Surrey by booking your tickets for December 10 in Haslemere Hall and taking your family and friends along for a day of film entertainment, arts and culture.

Shanga Khidhir