Issue No.
70, February 2004 Latest update 9 of July 2007, at 6.25 am
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Miguel Littin

One of Palestine’s most distinguished filmmakers in the Diaspora, the world renowned Miguel Littin will be attending the Palestine Film Festival - Dreams of a Nation this month. A Palestinian-Chilean from Beit Sahour (Littin was originally Al-Yateem), and the subject of a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Littin is known internationally as one of the foremost Latin American filmmakers. Born in Chile in 1942 to Palestinian immigrant parents, Littin began his filmmaking career in 1965, and gained international recognition with the feature film The Jackal of Nahueltoro (El Chacal de Nahueltoro, 1968). Littin has made 17 feature films and feature-length documentaries. Five of Littin’s films have been featured at the Cannes film festival, the most recent of which was Tierra del Fuego (2000).

His earlier work is known for its combination of neo-realistic aesthetics and its focus on social issues. His first feature, The Jackal of Nahueltoro tells the story of an illiterate farmer who kills his lover and her children in a drunken rage after being evicted from his farmhouse. He goes on to learn to read and write in prison, and becomes a “citizen," but finds that his reform is not enough to save him. The film was controversial for its portrayal of the abject living conditions and the social injustices facing the poor in Chile, and it gained wide praise in international circles. Later films continued with Littin’s interest in portraying the struggle of the poor and the dispossessed. The Jackal of Nahueltoro not only “revealed his ability as a filmmaker but also the politics that would drive his work." (C. Ribalta)

Littin was appointed to the post of director of Chile-Films under the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende. Littin was exiled from Chile after the brutal coup of 11 September 1973, and during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet he was compelled to live in Mexico and Spain. Littin risked his life to return to Chile in the early 1980s, altering his appearance and travelling with false documents so as to make an underground film documenting conditions there - this film was released in 1986 as Chile’s General Act (Acta General de Chile). This part of Littin’s life was also memorialized in Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “Clandestine in Chile" (La Aventura de Miguel Littin, Clandestino a Chile). The film garnered several major international awards, including four prizes at the Venice film festival, and galvanized greater international pressure on the Pinochet regime. Littin has been honoured with awards at major international film festivals, and his work has been nominated for Best Foreign Feature in the American Academy Awards.

Since the end of Pinochet’s military regime, Littin has returned to Chile to continue his filmmaking, while engaging in many international co-productions. His recent film work has centred on the question of Palestine and on the experiences of Palestinians in the Diaspora. After completing a script on Palestinian immigrants to Chile called The Farthest Moon (L’Ultima Luna), Littin decided to first make a documentary in Palestine, so as to reconnect with the lives of contemporary Palestinians. This documentary, A Palestinian Chronicle, was shot largely in Beit Sahour.

Littin is currently in post-production on a feature narrative film. The Farthest Moon is the story of two Palestinian families, one of which emigrates to Chile. The other remains in Palestine and sees their good relations with their Jewish neighbours destroyed as the Zionist movement gains strength in the years leading up to 1948. Littin has proposed this film as the beginning of a trilogy that will cover almost nine decades, with the second film focusing on the period between 1948 and the first Intifada, and the third set in present-day Palestine. The whole cinema and film industry in Palestine and its aficionados are eagerly awaiting Littin’s arrival to Palestine and to the first Palestine Film Festival - Dreams of a Nation.

Kamran Rastegar

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