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Film of the Week: Fadia’s Tree

MARIA DUARTE recommends a powerful and heartbreaking documentary about a Palestinian woman’s quest to find her family’s ancient mulberry tree

Fadia’s Tree (U)
Directed by Sarah Beddington

SPARKED by a chance encounter with a Palestinian refugee stranded in Lebanon 15 years ago, which blossomed into a long-term friendship, visual artist turned film-maker Sarah Beddington embarks on a quest to find Fadia Loubani’s ancient mulberry tree, which was the only evidence of her family's existence.

It grew by the side of her grandfather’s house in what was the Palestinian village of Sa’Sa — which suffered two massacres in 1948 by the zionist Haganah forces — located 15 minutes from Lebanon, but all Beddington had to go on were inherited memories, a blind man and a two-headed dragon.

Fadia’s tree is an ambitious debut feature by the artist-turned-writer-director, which takes a unique birds-eye view of the Palestinian refugee issue and their lifelong dream to return to the homeland.

“It looks like it’s my destiny and my children’s to remain as refugees,” Fadia admits as she reveals that having become widowed at 19 with two young children, she decided not to let them go with her parents, who were emigrating to Denmark, as she wasn’t eligible to go with them.

Fadia lives vicariously through Beddington’s numerous attempts to discover her family’s tree and her journeys to her home village, which she has never seen, as her hopes are raised, dashed and raised again.

It is a powerful and heartbreaking documentary underlined by arresting cinematography and gorgeous landscapes.

However, the analogy with the millions of birds that migrate freely over the state of Palestine — though intriguing — is really distracting and does not quite work: it feels that you are watching two different films in one.

It would also have been interesting to have heard from Fadia’s own children, who have given her grandchildren, and her parents, though her father has since passed away.

Little is known about her parents as Fadia sheds no light on her relationship with them after they became Danish citizens.

Fadia’s Tree is a captivating film which will hopefully prove a great springboard to reopen the Palestinian debate and finally find a solution.

Maria Duarte

In cinemas

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