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Hikayat Al-Jawahir Thalath (Tale of the Three Jewels)

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Khleifi's Tale of the Three Jewels was the first feature ever filmed in the Gaza Strip, which makes it perfect for Been-Seen's Movie Atlas. It was made entirely on location, by the sea, in the refugee camps and on the city streets – providing a fascinating insight into a unique environment.

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A narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt, Gaza Strip is, as the characters in the movie describe it, 'a small piece of land'. Yet it's home to 1.5 million people. The movie was made in the days following the Hebron Massacre of 1994, and before the arrival of the Palestinian Authority later that year. A moment in time, while Israeli soldiers were still present.

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It's the story of 12-year-old Yusef, a resident of the refugee camps who spends his days wandering the countryside looking for birds. One day he comes across gypsy girl Aida, whom he falls for, hook, line and sinker. He immediately sets about winning her heart, a mission which threatens to take him as far as South America.

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He doesn't get there, spending instead the entire story between the camp, the beach and the city, letting the war-ravaged Gaza Strip provide a stark background to his romance. It affords the viewer a good overall view of the territory, graffiti and drive-bys included.

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But all the while, the characters are minutes away from the sea, which remains a constant reminder of a bigger force, the power of nature. It's a force Yusef is drawn to.

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At one point, he asks his mother, 'When you were young, did you swim in the sea?' 'Of course,' she replied. 'Your father often took me. He loved watching the sea in the evening 'til the moon reached the middle of the sky. But after 1967, the Israelis banned us from going there at night, and little by little we forgot the sea existed at all.' – Roshan McArthur

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