Cinema Jenin – Is this the end?

I am shocked while I am reading these lines

And I am not sure what shocked me more: the lousy kind of journalism – obviously DEUTSCHLANDRADIO didn’t do any qualified research on the subject – or the fact that Marcus Vetter should have said, that the situation in Jenin is too insecure to bring volunteers.

But first things first.

Right from the beginning I was a big supporter of Cinema Jenin – you can follow up here and here on various articles I’ve written and interviews I’ve done. After the opening event I’ve been 3 times to Jenin in various missions and I know some of the people there quite well.

Marcus Vetter, a German documentary film maker did this heart breaking movie “Heart of Jenin“. During the shooting the idea was born to re-build a cinema in Jenin which was closed during the intifada in 1987 (I think). He founded a “Verein”, raised a lot of money and in August 2010 there was a grand opening of Cinema Jenin screening Marcus’ film: Heart of Jenin. A very emotional moment for each and everybody who was involved. This opening should have marked a beginning. The beginning of the project Cinema Jenin – a cinema which helps the people in Jenin and which provides a space where creativity can emerge. The cinema was re-built for the local people.

So what happened?

Unfortunately here the DEUTSCHLANDRADIO article ends by saying that Fahkri, the ex-manager of Cinema Jenin is now in Germany, the situation in Jenin is too dangerous for volunteers to stay there and the cinema program is no longer running. Full stop!

Here are a few points, which a journalist should at least take into consideration when publishing such an article – very easy to do the research on …  – and believe me, I am not very happy to write the following:

  • I think Fahkri currently can’t go back to Jenin … –  according to what local people are telling me, there are still unpaid bills  from the opening. Many people mentioned that he’d used his position for his personal advantage …
  • Cinema Jenin unfortunately NEVER had a sustainable plan (I remember the discussion at the opening event how it should go on) nor funding to create something like a continuous cinema program or to establish local staff who translate Marcus’ ideas into action.
  • Most of the money which came and is still coming from our ministry of foreign affairs is needed to reduce outstanding debts – unfortunately it can’t be used to build something new! And the budget was huge – 1 million Euros according to many media sources reported.
  • I remember staying at the guest house when one room was flooded by the rain and there wasn`t any money to repair it (March 2010). Volunteers were sleeping in there … they got sick! Maybe that is one of the reasons why they left.
  • The team unfortunately failed in involving the local people – asking them what THEY wanted, supporting THEM with THEIR ideas for the theatre and building something for THEM.
  • The way it was done –  when I look back today – was very much to create a PR-story for the movie Heart of Jenin.
  • I liked very much the idea Marcus once told me to “export” the idea of Cinema Jenin in various parts of the world – but not for the purpose of writing another PR story for the next movie (Africa), but to build something for the people`s need.

I am writing this because I am NOT willing to accept that Cinema Jenin failed because of the insecure situation in Jenin. I agree, it is NOT a tea party there – but I and many of my friends never had any trouble there. People were always friendly and welcoming. I think Cinema Jenin failed because of its insuffcient – I am tempted to say selfish – management.

But there is still hope … even though it’s little.

It hasn’t closed its doors yet!

And believe me – I will be among the first to support the project again when the locals are involved and when their needs become part of it – or even better, when THEY THEMSELF run the cinema.

Something Extraordinary Happened …

“You’ve got to be the change you want to see!”


“Heart of Jenin” is a documentary by Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter. It is the story of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed in Jenin in 2005, by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for the real thing. The son of Ismael Khatib, a former Palestinian fighter who had been imprisoned in Israel, Ahmed was rushed to an Israeli hospital where he died. But something extraordinary happened. Instead of seeking revenge Ismael’s family allowed his organs to be transplanted into ill Israeli children. His heart went to Sameh, a Druze girl in Pklin; a kidney went to Mohamed, a Bedouin boy in the Negev; and one kidney went to Menuha Rivka, an Orthodox Jewish girl in Jerusalem. The film recounts the events and the transplant, and then follows the boy’s father, Ismael Khatib, as he journeys to visit three of the children that received his son’s organs.

The Story: Cinema Jenin rolls out red carpet

This happened in the beginning of August 2010. It took me a while to complete the story …

Since Marcus had finished “The Heart of Jenin”, he was restless. He wanted to create a place in Jenin where his movie and hopefully many others could be screened. For two years a team of local Palestinians and international volunteers has laboured to build a new cinema from the dilapidated shell of the old movie house, which shut its doors 23 years ago during the first intifada. He saw the cinema’s restoration as a way of challenging the negative image of Jenin, as well bringing a creative space to a city in which the daily grind of living under occupation had virtually erased cultural activity.

See here my entire interview with Marcus.

The red carpet had seen better days. Faded, threadbare and dotted with stains and cigarette burns, it would not have graced a Hollywood premiere. But this was Jenin, one of the most troubled cities in the West Bank over recent decades and a long way from Tinseltown. And, for once, there was something to celebrate: The re-opening of the cinema.

Its smart minimalist interior – thanks to Johannes Hucke, project architect and co-founder of Cinema Jenin – has got more than 300 original cinema seats, restored by local craftsmen. A state-of-the-art sound system has been donated by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Its new roof, electrical system, 3D projection system, film school, digital library, open-air screen and cafe was paid for, in part, by the German government. And the new cinema runs on solar power. The $1m restoration was largely driven by Marcus and his team at Cinema Jenin.

And, most importantly: “Heart of Jenin” marked the grand opening of Cinema Jenin followed by a three-day film festival. Having helped to raise at least some money, knowing many details and being close to some of the leading figures during this entire process, believe me, it was a very emotional and touching moment when finally “Heart of Jenin” was screened.

Here is my short intro video of the “official” opening event.

Aftermath – We’ve only just begun

Rebuilding and re-opening Cinema Jenin was just the beginning. A very important milestone though. But if the story would end NOW, it would be fatal. So all efforts – financial, educational, political, social, economical, cultural … – are needed to continue the project.
And I know despite all the challenges they are facing Marcus, Dagmar Quentin, close friend of mine and also co-founder of Cinema Jenin, and all the others are working hard to make it happen; to achieve their goal that Cinema Jenin helps Jenin, its people and its neighbours.

For me it is by far the most outreaching example in this region on how “ordinary” PEOPLE from all over the world come and work together and above all SHARE their common goal and their VALUES. Selforganized in many ways. No matter how safe or unsafe Jenin is, how explosive or calm the situation there is, no matter of religion or politics – they are there to make the change (possible). It is this mindset I embrace and this is why I am supporting Cinema Jenin. For me it is ONE way to show how peace can be achieved in this region. Of course we need many more examples …

Travelling throughout Israel and Palestine – and I have done it many times – is a nightmare. Security checks over and over again! No trust, only suspiciousness. Young armed people all over the place. Neighbours without names – Palestinians and Israelis referring to each other as “they”. It really makes me aggressive. Immediately. Don’t get me wrong. I am not argueing against security, I am argueing against the obsession with it. If we anaesthetise young people by hammering hatred and fear in their minds, if governments and media build up a world of distrust and angst … how shall we ever convince our kids that they will look forward into a bright future?

We have to find new forms of governance and security – not knowing how they will look like in detail. But my instinct tells me and very first examples show me that collaboration, networking, participation and as THE key issue transparency will help and that solutions based on these principles and ideas will work out – MacroWikinomics as Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams named it in their latest book.

So far politicians haven’t found an answer for this region. Neither the one-state solution nor the two-state-solution is within reach. As a young Arabic woman, whom we met by coincidence while we were strolling around in some quiet part of Jerusalem a day or two after the opening, said: “This is not about religion any more. Arabic and Jewish people have been living together for hundreds of years. And it worked and is still working. Nothing more to proof. It is all about the power of politicians. Individual interest above people’s interest.”Discussions have been going on for decades without any results … on the contrary! It seems politicians have maneuvered the cause into a dead end street. I am not sure if Martine Rothblatt’s “Two Stars for Peace”
-solution, giving “a grassroots plan to solve the Middle East Crisis by merging Palestine and Israel into the U.S. as the 51st and 52nd states”, will ever be considered seriously in the world of politics. I found the idea refreshing, creative and precious – because it is NOT top-down but bottom-up. It realizes and takes into account that a solution can only be found, if it is convincing and satisfying for THE people. Then people will engage and drive the idea forward … self-organized, in collaborations beyond borders and in peace!

And this is what Cinema Jenin has shown me so far …
So please keep on going in this spirit.

For a better world.

See here my entire interview with Marcus.

Cinema Jenin – A way to solve the Palestine-Israel Conflict

Last week I had the chance to talk to filmmaker Marcus Vetter on his project “Cinema Jenin”.He produced a feature film “Heart of Jenin” – a “sign of the time” movie which really captures the Palestine=Israel conflict.

That’s Marcus mission on his project:
“As a documentary filmmaker I go to a foreign land, and the people tell their stories and open their hearts. In return, I give them back a film, but I don’t believe that a film alone has the power to change their circumstances in the long run. Rebuilding Cinema Jenin gives each of those who participate the possibility to write the next chapter in their lives.”

Here is our interview … for me it was a very emotional and touching conversation.


Youtube player

01 – The filmmaker Marcus Vetter

02 – The Story of “Heart of Jenin” – Marcus’ latest film

03 – Challenges people are facing in the area around Jenin

04 – The Magic of Heart of Jenin – The City of Jenin
terrorism – freedom fighters

05 – The story of 1987 …

06 – The idea behind the project “Cinema Jenin”

07- “Cinema Jenin” and its sustainability

08- The financial concept behind “Cinema Jenin”
It´s all about trust and people!

The entire interview (51 min.)