Price of Kings co-director Richard Symons reflects on last night's Arafat screening in Jenin, West Bank:
What an extraordinary evening. My scrambled notes can't do it justice. Apologies.
We'd deliberated for ages over whether to screen in Jenin or Ramallah. Tight for time, we could only afford one night of screening in the West Bank. On the ground everybody told us we simply had to screen in both - which meant over the course of our 5 days here we'd be showing the films on 5 nights, in 4 cities/towns, with Q&A's after each screening and press during the day. We figured if we couldn't make the choice, that probably meant there was none - so we committed to screening in both.
When forming the series we were determined to show each leader for good and bad (in other words, human). Arafat's leadership has always polarised opinion - passionately - but it's his people who've lived through the consequences and this would be the first time they'd see the film. The reaction in Jenin would be as important as it was unknowable. We also had no idea what the cinema, sound system, etc. would be like… and it's always the dull technical stuff that can trip up a screening.
To say we were amazed would be an understatement. The cinema is remarkable on so many levels - a state of the art projector for the main screen, at the rear a beautiful garden with restaurant and another, open-air screen. You can sit out back, smoke a shisha, have a meal and watch a film. In two weeks time they're switching over completely to solar power and there's enough juice generated to supply the surrounding houses.
7.10. A strong turnout not helping our pre-Q&A nerves. Apparently the recently-appointed governor is here (previous one died of a heart attack after gunmen raided his house)
7.15 Lights down and before we knew it the final credits… I won't bore you with the details, applause etc. Relief.
Q&A was made by a lady who voiced something we simply hadn't heard in all the Q&A's we've faced over the films…
"I hadn't realised how hard leadership is."
There've been plenty of other occasions where critics have attacked the decisions made by Arafat and whenever we'd asked them what they'd have done instead (even with the benefit of hindsight) they've floundered. However you feel about the man, that lady nailed it.