R21 aka Restoring Solidarity Unclassified 18+
Viewer Advice: Strong impact themes.
This time capsule of an extraordinary unseen history is a remarkable work of documentation and preservation – both of a moment in time and of the moving image.
Throughout the mid- to late 20th century, filmmakers from around the world documented the campaign for Palestinian self-determination. Most of their films had rarely, if ever, been seen until a stranger in Tokyo offered director Mohanad Yaqubi an archive of films that had been stashed in her bedroom for decades. The films had ended up in Japan thanks to a staunch solidarity movement, with many Japanese people seeing in the Palestinian struggle echoes of their own oppression under the US following WWII.
Yaqubi set about cataloguing and digitising the films, and in the process realised there was a bigger story to tell. R21 aka Restoring Solidarity is the result: a chronological audiovisual collage of 16mm films – 20 in total, made between 1960 and 1980 – that vary in style and tone yet form a cohesive message of resistance. Woven between images of the archiving process are snippets of footage showing refugee camps, interviews with former president Yasser Arafat, hybrid narrative pieces, propagandistic tourism pitches and more. Together, they form a fascinating and essential account of the Palestinian–Japanese connection and of cinema itself.
“An unsent love letter between Japan and Palestine, a rediscovered history of the struggle … a triumph of archival stewardship, and an example of the viability of radical solidarity, through allyship, witnessing, and art.” – Reverse Shot