A Disturbed Earth is a documentary about a small Galilean village invaded by Jewish Zionist militias during the olive harvest of 1948. Outnumbered and outgunned, the people were unable to protect their village from invasion. Over seventy men were lined up in front of an ancient limestone wall blindfolded and gunned down, their families as witness. The survivors were forced to seek refuge over the border in Lebanon where many still live today in refugee camps.
A Disturbed Earth reverses the journey back to the village. Rihab is the daughter of Fouad, one of the survivors of the massacre. Rihab travels from Sydney through refugee camps and militarised borders in an attempt to return to the destroyed village and document its destruction. Rihab finds that there are many gaps in the story and very little visual reference to either the village and the events that make up her family’s flight from home as well as the initial years of homelessness before the refugee camps in Lebanon were built. This leaves only the imaginary. Pulling together fragments of information, shards of archival material, songs only partially remembered, the film takes us on a journey that interweaves the harsh reality of her family’s story expressed through oral history of her elders interwoven with fantastical and dreamy interpretation of those events.
What follows is a story about dispossession, memory and longing – a story buried, but waiting, under the breathing rubble of a village for more than seventy years.
Each location of the documentary will become one of its characters. While Rihab returns to the camp her father grew up in, the camp itself with its surreal contradictions, architecture, colours, and special sound-scape determine the visual and sonic form of the film. The cracks of tired and weary windows become the fatigued exhale of the camp. The dirt ground transforms a voice speaking in dialect, evoking the image of trembling dust that swirls around the foot of a person lined up against a wall, waiting to be murdered.
The film’s pace is informed by the way forced exile creates lives capable of living across multiple times, forced to remember and to dream while awake. A Disturbed Earth will explore this dreamscape using a style informed and inspired by the creative expressions of the people whose story it tells. Exile and struggle often create visual and auditory/sonic brilliance. Poetry, music and other art forms will be woven throughout the film.
Story sharing is an organic continuum of oral history traditions and in this spirit the interviews will not be filmed in traditional talking head set up. The interviews themselves will be a form of poetry, taking us back into the village over steel fortified and locked borders. They tell of life in the village before the invasion and help us get to know some of the people killed in the attack, such as Mahmoud Zaghmout, Galilee’s best-known singer of the time.
A Disturbed Earth creates historical archive out of the everyday. Here a village folk song, remains of an oil jar or a wedding scarf hastily packed in the bosom of a woman during the flight from home serve as historical document alongside more official and recognised sources. Archival materials help to gather fragments of the story and give it cinematic form.