Interview with Ahmed by EK ’24
Ahmed is a documentary filmmaker from Gaza currently working in the United States. He grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza with his parents and seven older siblings and moved to the US after receiving a scholarship to New York University. He received a master’s degree in News and Documentary at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. In this audio interview, Ahmed describes how his observations about the inaccurate and hostile portrayal of Palestinians in Western media inspired him to become a documentary filmmaker. Ultimately, Ahmed wishes to bring together Palestinian Americans and build a Palestinian coalition to challenge the Israeli occupation.
You know how how I call it… the narrative war that I witnessed in the US. It’s much fiercer than the actual war and bombs that were falling on us in Gaza.
I left home right after the 2000… 2014 War that Israel launched against Gaza. So when I came here really like, really to tell my story to the Americans to help change the situation for my family back home. But actually, I was shocked from the level of willingful ignorance at times and at other times that they were deliberately told one side of the story. And after a year of thinking, I took a decision that I meant to be a storyteller, visual storyteller, filmmaker. Because I found that it was my responsibility to tell the story, because the story… our story has been deliberately squashed or manipulated.
The first act of liberation… is to grab back and tell your own story. The fundamental question remains of like, how any skillful amazing filmmaker can tell a story of a Palestinian if this filmmaker did not experience it. Any story about a Palestinian issue, it’s really very complicated. For example, when I watch Palestinian stories here made by non-Palestinians, the tiny details that I’ve lived there as a Palestinian, of course, they are absent. I’m talking about the details that humanize us. They’re absent. So they would focus on the mainstream stuff, which is always war, destruction, conflict, suffering. This is like how serious I think the narrative war that we Palestinians have to fight I think.
The cause of my depression in the US is always watching Palestinian stories made by non-Palestinians, and I’ve never seen any film that I was satisfied after watching it. But the dilemma if any non-Palestinian filmmaker would like still to make films about Palestine, they have to have a Palestinian producer in it, a Palestinian have a serious credit on the film. Because part of also me watching these films, I always go home and search them. And most cases, I cannot find any Palestinian to have a serious credit on the film. So of course, of course their story’s going to be lacking a lot of stuff. It’s not going to be full. If you are an American filmmaker and go to Palestine for a year or something, how do you think that you have this right to tell a story of a completely different people because you live there for a year and you care about them? If the people of the film won’t be happy with it, then your… then your message didn’t come across, then you have failed.
I think also Americans are not just a part of the conflict quote unquote, they are actually enforcing it. They are, they send Israel over $3 billion a year in- in the military form and the President giving Jerusalem as if he owns it to the Israelis. This is an act of war. The Israelis kill us by a US-made weapon. This is- was actually a huge shock for me when the US actually is in bed with my occupier.
Any body of work on Palestine-Israel, I think has to be carefully selected to appeal to the American mind in a way that they will find it interesting and kind of a new narrative. If I’m gonna get like a name and stuff, I will start really educating these filmmakers because I think it’s my duty. It’s my responsibility.