A Plate of Sardines, or The First Time I Heard of Israel (1997) - Omar Amiralay

Here’s a great short from Syria’s finest – the auteur, provocateur, and master, Omar Amiralay. Perhaps this is an aficionado’s grab, or a completist’s – but it is really a cracking film, with Mohammad Malas involved and plenty of inter-textual references for those familiar with Syrian political cinema.
In the company of fellow Syrian filmmaker Mohammad Malas, the ground-breaking director Omar Amiralay revisits the ruins of the destroyed Golan village of Quneytra, occupied by Israel and then abandoned following the 1973 war. Shots of Quneytra – symbolically ransacked by the Israeli army – provides a haunting backdrop to this exploration of memory, place and politics. The director’s accomplished blending of reenactments, interviews and landscape imagery makes A Plate of Sardines an integral and striking contribution to Arab cinema.
Omar Amiralay has been making politically courageous and artistically experimental film since the 1970s and has frequently fallen foul of the Syrian regime for his socialist commitments and unflinching critiques. He was honoured with a special session during the Pompidou Centre’s Cinéma du Réel Festival in 2006.


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