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February 6, 2024
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Bye Bye Tiberias: An Ode from Lina Soualem to Women's Memories

In the documentary "Bye Bye Tiberias," director Lina Soualem takes us on a profound journey into the heart of her maternal lineage, exploring the nuanced stories of four generations of women against the backdrop of Palestinian history. The film is an exploration of identity, memory, and the indomitable spirit of women, told through the return of her mother, the actress Hiam Abbass to her native village in Palestine after decades of absence.

At the core of "Bye Bye Tiberias" is the intimate narrative of Hiam Abbass, who left her Palestinian village in the late 1980s to chase her actress dreams. This departure marked the beginning of a life in exile, a theme that resonates deeply within the fabric of the film. Hiam Abbass's journey is not just a tale of personal ambition but a reflection of a broader historical and cultural displacement experienced by many Palestinians. Through the lens, we witness a poignant homecoming, as Hiam Abbass confronts and reconciles with the ghosts of her past, alongside her daughter Lina Soualem, born in France and representing a bridge between two worlds.

"The life paths of my Algerian grandparents, of my Palestinian grandparents, of these two families, these are life paths which have been marginalized, invisible, but which are so rich in what they brought me that it was a necessity for me to highlight them." Lina Soualem on France Inter

After the documentary "Their Algeria", Lina Soualem, a French-Palestinian-Algerian filmmaker and actress, brings back her unique perspective to this narrative. With a background in History and Political Science and an established career in the film industry, Lina Soualem delves into the personal and collective memories of her family with a keen sense of historical awareness and cinematic finesse. Her approach to storytelling is deeply personal, yet universally resonant, as she explores the themes of belonging, identity, and resistance through the women in her family.

"That's what fascinates me about the journey of these women, is that they managed to keep their memory and their history alive, despite dispossession, despite the chaos around them, they have succeeded in transmitting values of love, happiness, joy, as you said, tolerance, forgiveness to their children, in raising children." Lina Soualem on France Inter

"Bye Bye Tiberias" is more than a documentary; it is a testament to the enduring strength and resilience of Palestinian women. From the matriarchal figures of Neemat, an educator, and Um Ali, a seamstress, to the modern-day journey of Hiam Abbass and her daughters, the film showcases the diverse ways in which these women have navigated and resisted the confines of a patriarchal society and the challenges of displacement.

The film is a mosaic of memories, woven together through Lina's narrative and the archival family footage, offering a glimpse into the intimate and collective experiences of Palestinian women. It highlights the role of these women in preserving and passing down a rich cultural heritage, amidst the backdrop of the Nakbah and ongoing political strife. The documentary stands as a powerful counter-narrative to the erasure and oblivion faced by Palestinians, especially women, in the historical discourse.

"For me, what hurts the most is the children in all this. And I wonder today how we can cleanse all these memories. Being a Palestinian child in my case, having carried so much pain and history, and now I only see light and I want to see only light, I want to offer only light because I know that this can perhaps speak to people, to humanity. But frankly, today, all the political proposals lead us nowhere." Hiam Abbass on France Inter

"Bye Bye Tiberias" is not just a story of returning to one's roots; it is an exploration of how identities are forged in the interstices of history, culture, and personal experience. For Lina Soualem and Hiam Abbass, the journey back to Palestine is a means of coming closer to each other, understanding their heritage, and reclaiming their narratives. The documentary is a poignant reminder of the importance of memory and storytelling in the face of displacement and erasure. It is a tribute to the resilience of Palestinian women and their role in the ongoing struggle for identity and homeland.

Images by ©Frida Marzouk⁠


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