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Indybay Feature

"The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir'im"

Saturday, February 16, 2008
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
Al-Awda Center, 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, Carlsbad CA 92010

"The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir'im"
Film screening followed by discussion with filmaker Dr. John Halaka

The Ruins of Kafr Bir'im. 2006. Photo Credit John Halaka © (photo not included as i didn't want to download it at work)
When: Saturday February 16, 2008 6 PM

Where: Al-Awda Center, 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, Carlsbad CA 92010

About the Film: 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.
Language: English and Arabic with English subtitles

"The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir'im" presents a seldom-heard
Palestinian perspective. Shot on location in the ruins and cemetery of Kafr Bir'im,
a Palestinian village located in Northern Galilee, the film introduces the viewer to
Mr. Ibrahim Essa, an elderly poet who is a survivor of the mass dispossession and
expulsion the native population of Palestine experienced in 1948 at the hands of the
Zionists. 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 7.5 million
Palestinians who are also living in forced exile from their homes and land. 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 a better future; and their cultural, psychological and
physical attachment to the ancient and modern ruins that exist throughout that

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 depopulated of its
Palestinian inhabitants by the military forces of the newly imposed Zionist state of
'Israel' in early November 1948. All of the 1050 inhabitants of Kafr Bir'im were
driven from their land, and have not been allowed to return to the homes and fields
that they and their ancestors had inhabited and cultivated for centuries.

The film commemorates the 60th year of the depopulation by force of Kafr Bir'im and
memorializes the mass expulsion and dispossession that befell Palestine that year.
The Zionist campaign to dispossess Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants started
in December 1947. By December 1948, it had resulted in the destruction of
Palestinian civil and political society, the eradication of 531 villages, and the
expulsion of more than three quarters of a million Palestinian civilians.
Palestinians refer to this great catastrophe as the "Nakba"

About the Filmaker: John Halaka considers himself an activist artist whose creative
work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political
concerns. He creates metaphorical images that raise questions, for himself as well
as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. The primary focus
of his work over the past two decades can be summarized as an ongoing reflection on
the frailty and resilience of the human condition and the persistent search for
self-realization in the face of personal and cultural self-delusion. His experiences
as an artist of Palestinian descent shape his pictorial investigations of cycles of
repression and displacement as well as the personal and political relationship
between desire, denial and instability. His recent work investigates issues of
identity construction from personal, familial and political perspectives.

John Halaka is of Palestinian descent and was born in El Mansoura, Egypt, in 1957.
He is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of San Diego, where he
has taught since 1991. He received his MFA in the Visual Arts from the University
of Houston in 1983. In 1979, Halaka received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the City
University of New York Baccalaureate Program, with Brooklyn College as home school.
John Halaka has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions both locally and
nationally. His work was included in the exhibit Made In Palestine, organized by the
Station Museum, in Houston Texas, as well as, IN-VISIBLE, the inaugural exhibition
at the Arab American National Museum in Detroit, Michigan. Halaka's art can be
viewed on his web site.

Directions to Al-Awda Center

Al-Awda's Center is located at 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, Carlsbad, CA 92010.
From I-5, exit Palomar Airport Road and head East - make a left on Loker Avenue West
(first left after you cross El Camino Real) and left into Carlsbad Crossroads
business center (look for the large Carlsbad Crossroads sign). End 2734 Loker Avenue
West Suite K.

From I-15, exit I-78 West. From I-78 exit San Marcos Blvd and head West. San Marcos
Blvd becomes Palomar Airport Road when you enter Carlsbad. Loker Avenue West will be
on your right, past the Melrose Drive and El Fuerte intersections. Other directions
as above.

From El Camino Real, go East on Palomar Airport Road and make a (first) left on
Loker Avenue West. Other directions as above.

Please note: The screening on Saturday February 16, 2008 will be preceded by the
recording of contributions for the 60 Years of Nakba Video Quilt

Please also note that a second screening of "The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of
Kafr Bir'im" is tentatively scheduled for Sunday Feburary 24, 2008 starting at 2 PM
at the Arab Community House in Anaheim. This screening will also be preceded by the
recording of contributions for the 60 Years of Nakba Video Quilt

For more information, contact:

Al-Awda San Diego
The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
Email: info [at]

Save the Date!
Sixth Annual International Al Awda Convention
On The Sixtieth Year of Al Nakba
Anaheim, California
May 16-18, 2008

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