Closure or no closure, Ram Allah is preparing to host its first international film festival in the Palestinian areas.
At a pre-inauguration tour of the new $6.5m Ram Allah Cultural Palace, organisers on Sunday introduced journalists to the centre and an international cultural programme they are planning for the next 30 days.
The Ram Allah Cultural Palace is a state-of-the-art auditorium with acoustics and lighting unmatched in the region, according to Walid Hasna, director of infrastructure projects at the East Jerusalem office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which built the centre.
The 720-seat theatre was designed and implemented by Palestinians all the way from construction to the final touches in light and sound effects, he said.
The Japanese government financed the construction of the centre with a $5.5m grant and UNDP added an additional $1m.
"This centre proves
that we still have cultural life and interest in spite of the hardships of the last four years"
International Film Festival director
It is built on a 4000 sq m hilly area donated by the Ram Allah municipality, said Ram Allah Mayor Ayyub Rabah.
"We are proud to have this building in Ram Allah, the cultural capital of Palestine," said Rabah, adding that he hopes an amphitheatre will be soon added to the site of the Cultural Palace.
Building the theatre was not easy, said UNDP Communications
Officer Ihab Shanti. Palestinian President Yasir Arafat laid the cornerstone for the building in 2000, before the outbreak of the uprising, or Al-Aqsa Intifada, at the end of September 2000.
Israeli closure of the occupied territories and its reoccupation
of the cities in June 2002 hampered construction in general and meant the public were not too interested in the opening of musical, film or cultural theatres.
Culture still there
"This centre proves that we still have cultural life and interest
in spite of the hardships of the last four years," said Adam Zubi, director of the International Film Festival.
A Palestinian from Nazareth but travelling all the time between
Arafat laid the cornerstone for
the theatre in 2000
Ram Allah, where he has recently started a new film institute, and Rome, where he works as assistant to Italian film director Ettore Scola, Zubi says the film festival that will start on 8 July will show around 80 newly released films, some in the presence of directors, producers or actors.
The month long programme will open on Wednesday with a musical performance by the Ram Allah-based Palestinian orchestra of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and will later host the well known Spanish artistic group Tarifa in addition to a host of other international art groups.
The official inauguration of the Cultural Palace building, covered on the inside with mahogany, will be held on Monday 5 July to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the UNDP work in the Palestinian areas under the title of Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People.
Soon after the inauguration, the building will be turned over to
the Ram Allah municipality and the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, which have promised to look after the building's upkeep and open it to all those who want to enhance cultural life in the city and the Palestinian areas in general.