Photo of Mustafa Tamimi, a villager from Nabi Saleh who was killed by Israeli occupation forces with a tear gas canister fired at his face from point-blank range.
Thank God It‘s Friday is Nabi Saleh‘s biggest film debut
By Andrew Beale : Palestine Monitor: February 17, 2013
Thank God it’s Friday probably had the most successful film debut in the village of Nabi Saleh, which premiered on February 2. The village’s cultural center was filled beyond capacity, and seats were hard to find amid an excited, cheering crowd.
The documentary has been in the works for two years and focuses on the ongoing struggle to reclaim the land of Nabi Saleh, much of which was stolen by the neighboring settlement of Halamish. It features interviews and footage of Nabi Saleh residents as well as the settlers living in Halamish.
Belgian filmmakers Jan Beddegenoodts and Niel Iwens collaborated on the project. Beddegenoodts said he was inspired to make the film after attending a demonstration in Nabi Saleh.
“The first time I was in Nabi Saleh, in April 2011, the protests were really violent. It blew my mind,” he said.
The film’s title is a reference to the fact that demonstrations take place in Nabi Saleh every Friday. The demonstrations are marked by intense repression from Israeli security forces, who frequently use skunk water, tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live fire.
Including the settlers was an important part of the project for Iwens and Beddengenoodts because it visually demonstrates the difference between Nabi Saleh, a village suffering from occupation, and Halamish, a settlement bolstered with funding from the Israeli government
During the production of Thank God it’s Friday, Nabi Saleh resident Mustafa Tamimi was killed by Israeli occupation forces with a tear gas canister fired at his face from point-blank range. Almost a year later, another villager Rushdi Tamimi was killed by Israeli soldiers’ live fire. The film features interviews with Mustafa’s family after his death.
“It was really hard seeing his mother witnessing how he got killed, and it was really hard to see how the settlers considered it an accident, when he literally got shot to death,” Iwens said.
Including the settlers was an important part of the project for Iwens and Beddegenoodts because it visually demonstrates the difference between Nabi Saleh, a village suffering from occupation, and Halamish, a settlement bolstered with funding from the Israeli government.
“The first time I went (to Halamish), I was blown away by the contrast,” Beddegenoodts said. “You can see it already from the way it looks from the outside. It looks alien in the Palestinian landscape.”
It’s clear, watching the film, that the settlers in Halamish are not particularly bothered by the damage done by their illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
In one of the film’s most powerful segments, two teenagers in Halamish discuss spending Friday relaxing by the pool, while in the background soldiers can be seen storming up the hill towards Nabi Saleh.
“While the people from Nabi Saleh were focusing on resisting the occupation, the people in Halamish got comfortable,” Beddegenoodts said. The filmmakers hope the film will draw international attention to the problems posed by settlements.
“I think it stays a really obscure news item for most people, and we hope to change this,” Beddegenoodts said. “In this time, in this period of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Thank God it’s Friday can show people why (settlements are) the main obstacle to a solution.”
Although they do not yet have a distributor, the documentarians are committed to showing their movie as widely as possible in order to show the world what is happening in Nabi Saleh.
“We tried to reach out as far as we can with our documentary, especially in the countries where they haven’t got so much knowledge about the conflict,” Iwens said. “I hope after seeing the conflict, the way that things are now, they will start to ask questions.”
Beddegenoodts and Iwens also want to see justice for the death of Mustafa Tamimi, but they do not believe this is likely to happen under the Israeli regime.
“What should be done is a very firm internal investigation, but an internal investigation on the side of Israel almost always results in the excuse of a ‘security issue,'” Iwens said. “There is almost no hope for a proper investigation. What should be done will never be done in this matter.”
Although justice is unlikely to come from Israel, Beddegenoodts and Iwens believe in the power of the people of Nabi Saleh to achieve justice through their struggle.
“I still believe in the people of Nabi Saleh,” Beddegenoodts said. “We must keep faith and hope that change is possible.”