I landed in Beirut with my wife and young family on 19 April 1974 to take up my appointment as Head of Films Branch, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). A leftist leader had been assassinated in South Lebanon the previous day and that event is regarded as the start of the civil war. A few days later I drove down to Nabatieh Palestinian refugee camp in South Lebanon to film the consequence of Israeli bombing. The camp had been obliterated. A few days later I filmed the effect of bombing in Rashidieh, a camp further down the coast near Tyre.
The brief was to document the services – Housing, Education, Health, Rations – that UNRWA offered the Palestinian refugees. My immediate boss and chief of the AV division was the legendary Myrtle Winter Chaumeny (writer, photographer, sailor, dancer); the director of Information was John Defrates, the bravest man I have ever met, who was a Navy pilot in the icy waters near Vladivostock during WWll. I was given a fairly free hand but editorial control rested with UNRWA. What I saw in South Lebanon and elsewhere gave me the form of the film: the experience of life in the camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan – but not the West Bank because Israel refused me entry. Myrtle filmed that sequence.
So the story is about war in Lebanon; life in one the oldest camps near Aleppo established in 1948; work in Baqa’a in Jordan which accommodated thousands of fleeing refugees after the 1967 war; and education in Ramallah.
Since then everything has changed for the worse for the Palestinian people. The locations for the film are now war zones or something very similar. The tragedy continues.
The film was invited to the London Film Festival and Teheran Film Festival. A copy is held by The National Film Archive.
Some of the Palestinians is being shown as part of the Refugee season at the BFI South Bank, London. NFT 2, 19th June 2014. Tickets from the BFI ticket office and website.
We would like to give special thanks to David Somerset of BFI education for his support, and including this film in the season.