Tone Anderson’s film presents a moving, incendiary portrayal of child prisoners
London – Tom Rollins
London’s 2013 Palestine Film Festival (PFF) has continued its pre-festival season with a screening of Tone Anderson’s When The Boys Return, a moving insight into the lives of the West Bank’s child prisoners.
The film, produced in association with Al Jazeera, follows 12 teenagers’ journey through counselling sessions following their release from Israeli detention.
Anderson’s personal portrayal of young men struggling with violence, apathy and the difficulties of returning to everyday life after intensely traumatic experiences evokes a both moving and incendiary naturalism.
One session ends with YMCA counsellor Nader Khallaf asking one teenager from Beit Ommar: “What changed [after prison]?”
“Everything,” the boy replies.
Close-up camerawork documenting boys’ discussions of anger, self-harm and abuse in prison leaves the audience with an uncompromising insight into their thoughts.
A panel discussion after the PFF screening at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre featured Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) director Chris Doyle, lawyer Greg Davies and writer and researcher Adah Kay discussing the Palestinian prisoner issue.
Kay, who wrote a 2004 book about child prisoners in Palestine (Stolen Youth), admitted the issue was “depressing” because “so very little has changed.”
But support of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign led by Palestinian civil society and actions against security firms complicit in Israeli detention could change that, she added.
Doyle, recently returned from a delegate visit to the West Bank, criticised the “military charade” he witnessed at Ofer military prison’s trying of children.
“Israelis need this system to maintain the occupation,” he claimed.
Lawyer Davies added that a recent report into Palestinian child prisoners, funded by the British government, had revealed Israel is in breach of both the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for its treatment of Palestinian youths.
“The response has always been that they [the Israelis] are “taking on board the recommendations,”he added.
Around 8,000 Palestinian prisoners have been arrested and detained in Israeli prisons in the last 10 years, with 700 youths arrested annually, according to UNICEF figures.
The London Palestine Film Festival will run in locations across the capital from May 3-15, featuring feature-length and short films dealing with a range of Palestinian and Arab issues.