Filmmaker Annemarie Jacir was born in Bethlehem in 1974 but her family was already effectively exiled to Saudi Arabia and she travelled between the two locations until she went to the US for senior high school and eventually an MFA at Columbia. As a young filmmaker she won many international prizes for her short film like twenty impossibles (Palestine 2003) and for her first fiction feature Salt of This Sea (Palestine/Bel/Fra/Spain/Switz 2008). Both these films were shown in the Official Selection at Cannes.
Through her own production company Philistine Films, Annemarie Jacir has been a driving force in establishing the possibility of an independent filmmaking base for Palestinian filmmakers. One aspect of this is her leading role in the ‘Dreams of a Nation’ film festival held in the US and touring Palestine in 2003. Salt of This Sea required European funding for its production but When I Saw You is funded almost entirely from Jordan and the Emirates and has a Lebanese producer. Jacir premiered the film in East Jerusalem and fought hard to get commercial distribution in Jordan, screening in multiplexes which had not previously shown independently-produced Arab films. With her Palestinian producer partner Ossama Bawardi she organised fifty screenings in Palestinian villages. Palestine has only a handful of cinemas and only rudimentary facilities but has produced more internationally-renowned filmmakers than any other Arab country.
When I Saw You is a film set around the time of the Naksa – the ‘set-back’ in 1967 when large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were forced to leave Palestine by the Israeli occupation forces following the Six-Day War. Those who were exiled in Jordan joined the large contingent of refugees who arrived during the Nakba in 1948. UNWRA (UN Works and Relief Agency reports that by January 2014 there were more than 2 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan with some 330,000 still living in one of the ten camps set up in 1948 or 1967. Nearly a third of Jordan’s population is made up of refugees (or the children of refugees). When I Saw You includes just two direct references to potential conflicts between Palestinians and Jordanians, both partly supportive and partly hostile.
Read our review of the film (no spoilers!) on The Global Film Book Blog.