Bitter Water

Bitter Water 1

A documentary film shot in the summer of 2002 in Bourj Al Barajneh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

Produced and Directed by Noura Sakkaf and Maysoon Pachachi

A Legend Productions / Oxymoron Films co-production, 2003

76 minutes (There is also a shorter version)

Bitter Water 2
Bitter Water 3
Bitter Water 4
Bitter Water 5
Bitter Water 6
Bitter Water 7
Bitter Water 8

The camp was established by the UN as a temporary solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis resulting from the creation of the state of Israel. 54 years and 4 generations later, the 20,000 people of Bourj Al Barajneh are still refugees – with little prospect of returning to Palestine, emigrating elsewhere or assimilating into Lebanese society, where they have no civil rights and are legally prohibited from 73 jobs.

‘We are only alive because we’re still breathing’
‘Yesterday we were thirteen; today we are fifty – the days just go by.’
‘It’s all talk, just talk. We’ve been forgotten’

We settled into the rhythm of the camp and, eventually, gained people’s trust. Over a period of 5 weeks, we spent whole days with families in their homes and places of work. We sat around in shops and spoke to people who just turned up. We filmed in the streets and in the alleyways and on rooftops. Within an instant, an ordinary conversation moved between comedy and tragedy, sadness and anger, grief and joy.

The frustration of trying to hold on to an identity sometimes broke through the veneer of ‘normal life’. The connection with the past is fraying and there is no hope for the future. Older people are trapped in a memory of a Palestine, which younger generations doubt they will ever see. They just want to escape and anywhere will do. The camp is permeated with a sense of loss, whether of a home in Palestine or of children and parents killed during the civil war in Lebanon.

‘We Palestinians are blessed with the gift of forgetting’

Only the sheer vitality of the children playing football in the alleyways, or climbing trees on a rare trip outside the camp, gives a fleeting sense of hope in the future

‘The vial of patience has been exhausted
But for a single drop of bitter water
And drink it I must’