Fatenah: Palestine's first 3D animation

Palestinian 3D animated film Fatenah combines fact and fiction in a story about a woman in the Gaza Strip, and her struggle with breast cancer under Israel's complete air, sea and land domination of the Strip.
Palestine Fatenah homepage
A view of the Palestinian 3-D animated film Fatenah © Fatenah.com

BEIRUT, July 6, 2009 (MENASSAT) — Overshadowed by the Israeli siege, the struggle for self-determination, inter-Palestinian factionalism, and the most recent war on Gaza, Palestinians in the Strip have had few media offerings to remind the world they live normal lives, and endure daily hardships.

Fatenah is a tale that attempts to battle this one-dimensional perception, humanizing a community laden with stereotypes.   

Inspired by a true story, the first Palestinian animated film documents the life of a 28-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It chronicles her struggles to take on what is a deeply personal battle - fighting the disease while living in a territory completely dominated by Israeli controls over Gaza's land, air and sea.

“The main goal we would like to reach, 'we' means the production house Dar, is to tell the world to look into the Palestinian stories not as statistics, but that behind each number there is a deep complicated story,” the director of the film, Ahmad Habash, told MENASSAT.

Fatenah’s story is based on the life of Fatma Bargouth, whose battle against breast cancer was documented by the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights in a 2005 report.  Fatenah, a two-year-project, was given a $60,000 budget by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The events in the story are some real and some fiction... and the real events are a combination of real events from different stories,” said Habash.

Fatenah, “while inspired by the Gaza woman’s ordeal - was a fictionalized account. “We made a love story. It’s sensitive,” Habash told AP. “But it also allows Fatenah to be a story about a lack of access to health.”

The head of the WHO in the Palestinian territories at that time (Nov. 2007), Mr Ambrojio Maninti, contacted Mr. Saed Andoni, the producer from Dar Film Production, and they started working on developing the idea into a short film, Habash told MENASSAT.

“That’s when I came to the production. They first thought of doing a documentary or live action fiction but then they switched to animation, since it would be a lighter version of telling a heavy story.”

In 2004, Bargouth felt a lump in her breast but was given ill-advice by Palestinian doctors. Months later, she was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctors refused to refer her to treatment in Israel.

She sent the report herself. But applying for medical treatment in Israel from Gaza is a long and complicated process and she was only granted permission after Israel human rights organization intervened. 

Bargouth would travel back and forth from Gaza and Israel, sometimes waiting hours alone for the gate to open, and often missing appointments when soldiers would not allow her to enter. After a five-year battle, Bargouth died at 29, in her home in Gaza.

In the 30-minute film, the makers of Fatenah outline the crippled health care system in Palestine through the woman’s story, but also highlight the affects of the Israeli occupation and siege, as the fate of Bargouth is not unique to Palestinians.

Since the Israeli siege on Gaza began in 2007, when Palestinian political party Hamas was elected to power, 274 Gazans have died for health reasons due to the Israeli closure of the Strip, according to the Ministry of Health of the Government of Gaza.

However, it is clear by Bargouth’s case, which began before Hamas took power, that this has been an ongoing form of violence inflicted on Palestinians, as part of the oppression of the occupation.

Habash is currently based in Ramallah and was unable to enter Gaza to see most of the scenes that were in the film, having to rely on a photographer in Gaza to take photos and send him them via email.

"From Israel, we only needed the hospital entrance (just for integrity). We could have used any hospital for interior scenes. A photographer friend of mine with press ID tried to take some photos at the hospital but the security asked for permission, which we found out would take a long time ... as would permission for me or the producer..so we navigated the internet for the hospital website, captured some images from the gallery page and used them as background images in the scenes.

In terms of what is next for the director, “Recently, I'm taking a break, at least from huge projects. I'm working more on exhibiting my sketches, reading books and traveling around. I always consider a feature film in stop motion. I want to stay away from computer 3d animation for the time being. I'm sorry but I can't reveal more.”

The film is currently being sent to major film festivals and was screened in Ramallah last Wednesday (July 1).