Media Graduate Wins Third International Youth Film Festival

Birzeit University media graduate Mahmoud al-Khawaja won first prize in the Palestinian films category during the Third International Youth Film Festival for his film “You Are Still Here” ("Lazilta Hadiran”).

The results were announced on Thursday, October 1, 2015, during the festival’s opening ceremony at the Ramallah Cultural Palace. Al-Khawaja shared the prize with Baha' Abu Shanab from Dar al-Kalima college in the city of Bethlehem, creator of “The Living of the Pigeons” ("Qoot el-Hamam”). 

In seven minutes, the documentary presents the human angle of the life of Palestinian fighter Abd al-Qader al-Husayni, as told through his daughter Haifa and her memories of their travels to Jerusalem, Iraq and Mecca, until the day al-Husayni was killed in the battle of al-Qastal in 1948.

Al-Khawaja said, “I am extremely happy to have won in this festival, because I have been fond of film since my early years. I aspire to become a renowned director. I am also glad to share this prize with ‘Qoot al-Hamam,’ because it is a wonderful and creative film.” 

“Studying Radio and Television at Birzeit University had a major role in motivating me to carry on in the field of filmmaking,” he said. “My academic background and the workshops with the Young Palestinian Film Makers [YPFM], which offered me my first break, have enabled me to understand the basics of picture and its language.”  

YPFM Director of the Board and Coordinator Isra’ Odeh said, “We are proud the judges selected al-Khawaja's film to win the prize.” The winning films from each category--Palestinian, Arab and international--will each receive $1,000 from YPFM and its partners.

“Al-Khawaja has undertaken two filmmaking workshops provided by YPFM and was one of the distinguished participants. He showed a burning desire to excel, which assisted him to reach this point,” Odeh said.

The winning film was showcased at the Said Khoury Development Studies Hall in Birzeit University on October 6.