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At the end of 2012, German photographer Julius Matuschik set out in search of traces of Palestinian cinema culture and documented the last remaining movie theatres in his Cinema Filistin series, currently exhibited throughout Palestine.
“I was visiting Cinema Jenin in northern Palestine, which had been renovated and reopened with the help of a German association and funding from a German ministry. I was told of another old cinema in the city of Jenin that is now used as a wedding hall. I visited it, and was really fascinated: although it was transformed to a wedding hall, it still was possible to sense that special magic “cinema feeling” and atmosphere.
Some days later I went to the cultural ministry in Ramallah to find out if there were any more empty or transformed cinemas in Palestine. I discovered that in the 1950s and 60s, there were several cinemas with up to three screenings a day in all major cities of the Palestinian Territories. When the First Intifada began in 1987, these cinemas closed down, for safety reasons and also out of fear that the cinemas might be destroyed.
I went to Bethlehem to see another former cinema, shuttered for nearly 30 years. The old posters on the wall, the dust and dirt in the main hall and the light breaking through the demolished roof gave it a magical atmosphere. After visiting both cinemas, I decided to tour Palestine to document the atmosphere in its historic movie theatres.
Some I found in rubble, others were standing empty, and some had been converted into wedding and meeting venues. Although a few cinema owners later tried to go back into operation, the demise of many cinemas in the West Bank seemed sealed when the Second Intifada began in 2000. Only a few have managed to revive movie-going culture in Palestine.”
Edited by Ellie Swingewood.