The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im
A film by John Halaka

Shot on location in the ruins and cemetery of Kafr Bir’im, a Palestinian village located in the Northern Galilee, the film introduces the viewer to Mr. Ibrahim Essa, an elderly poet who survived the ethnic cleansing of his homeland in 1948. Mr. Essa’s family has lived in Kafr Bir’im for the past 700 years. Through his narrative and poetry, Ibrahim Essa recounts his experiences as a youth in the village, the hardships of a life in exile and the intense emotional, physical and historical connections to the land that he shares with the 5,000,000 Palestinians who currently live in the Palestinian diaspora. Mr. Essa employs an ancient oral tradition of poetry that, in style, is similar to what is now referred to as “Spoken Word Poetry.” This improvisational oral tradition has been around for centuries in Northern Palestine and continues to be used by farmers and villagers to express the community’s intimate relationship to the land; a yearning for past times; and their cultural, psychological and physical attachment to the ancient and modern ruins that exist throughout that region.

In his introduction to the events that resulted in the complete destruction of the village, John Halaka explains that ”The village of Kafr Bir’im was ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian inhabitants by the military forces of the newly established state of Israel in early November 1948. All of the 1050 inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were driven from their land, and were never allowed to return to the homes and fields that they and their ancestors had inhabited and cultivated for centuries.”

The film commemorates the 60th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The ethnic cleansing campaign was systematically carried out by Jewish military forces between December 1947and December 1948, resulting in the destruction of Palestinian civil and political societies, the eradication of 531 villages, and the expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes and homeland. The Palestinians refer to this great catastrophe as the “Nakba,” the Israelis celebrate it as “The War of Independence.”

The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im presents a seldom-heard Palestinian perspective on the roots of the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

2007 release by SittingCrow Productions.
Produced, filmed, written, narrated and directed by John Halaka.
Edited by Marissa Bowman.
Music composed and performed by the Ramallah based musician Mohsen Subhi
Running time: 60 minutes.  

For further information regarding the film, please contact John Halaka at jhalaka@sandiego.edu or call 619.260.4107.