We are delighted to be partnering with Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) and working with the Silver Screen Critics as they enjoy this year’s programme. In this post, the critics give their thoughts on intergenerational documentary Bye Bye Tiberias.
DIFF 2024 runs 22nd February – 2nd March. Explore the programme and get your tickets here.

Lorna Cady

This documentary is based on four generations of a Palestinian family, and the traumas (and happiness) they have faced in their troubled homeland. Tiberias is a town on Lake Galilee, now in Israel. In ‘early modern’ times it had a mixed population of Arabic and Jewish people. In 1948 the British evacuated the Arab population. The film features early footage is in black and white, with more recent events in colour and focusses on the family of the Director Lina Soualem. Lina features in the film herself along with her mother Hiam Abbass who left her family and homeland to become an actress in Paris.

Hiam has a lifetime of family memories in photos, films, letters and poems. Her grandmother Um Ali was displaced from Tiberias to the village of Deir Hanna. Widowed, she had just her sewing machine to make money to raise her large family. There is footage of the evictions, and buildings being razed, all of which is deeply harrowing. Hiam’s mother Nemat also features in the film, along with her many children. Although often tragic in tone, the film ends in celebration with Hiam and Lina returning to their homeland, and re-living their heritage.

The film premiered in Venice on 3rd September in 2023. It is a sobering thought that the current dreadful conflict between Palestine and Israel started on 7th October 2023, just over one month later.

Eileen Murphy

I found this movie to be heartbreaking and beautiful. It is a documentary about a middle aged woman, the actress Hiam, returning home with her daughter to the land of her youth, Deir Hanna, near Nazareth. From the very beginning the words had a poetic sensibility. The lake of Tiberias, where the narrator’s mother brought her “as if to bathe me in her story”, is presented with a warm scene of mother and young daughter playing in its restorative waters. The focus is on women, mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers. These strong but gentle characters are steadfast in their values, kind and caring. Their plight follows the history of the area since 1948.

Director Lina Soualem eloquently demonstrates the enduring love that is both quite everyday, yet special to family life. We see scenes of children at play and in warm and fun filled interactions; they are a joyous feature of this movie. The narrative explores both the family’s celebrations while also looking at the fractions arising from life choices made by Hiam. This film is not without humour. The scenes relating to their mother’s married life, the reminiscences of Hiam’s siblings about their past and their interactions in trying to celebrate their reunion, ring true for any sister.

This film was shot during COVID and was presented as an examination of the mother daughter relationship. While it succeeds as a tender reflection on this familial bond, this film’s true strength is coming to this subject in these violent and distressing times. It takes on a much deeper significance. Embodying the mantra “show, don’t tell”, this beautiful memoir speaks with greater eloquence than any political manifesto about the tragedy and futility of the current conflict.

Bye Bye Tiberias screened at DIFF on 1st March. 

Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) is Ireland’s premier film event, dedicated to presenting the best in contemporary and classic world cinema. It brings the world to Ireland and showcases Ireland to the world. With a rich history spanning several decades, DIFF showcases a diverse selection of films, hosts industry events, and fosters a vibrant film culture in Dublin.

Over the past 22 years, it has screened more than 1,600 international films from over 52 countries. The Festival has hosted over 600 high profile guests, including Al Pacino, Angela Lansbury, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Danny DeVito, Ennio Morricone, Joss Whedon, Julie Andrews, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci, and Stellan Skarsgård.

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Gemma Creagh is a writer, filmmaker and journalist. In 2014 she graduated with a First from NUIG’s MA Writing programme. Gemma’s play Spoiling Sunset was staged in Galway as part of the Jerome Hynes One Act Play series in 2014. Gemma was one of eight playwrights selected for AboutFACE’s 2021 Transatlantic Tales and is presently developing a play with the Axis Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council. She has been commissioned to submit a play by Voyeur Theatre to potentially be performed in Summer 2023 as part of the local arts festival. Gemma was the writer and co-producer of the five-part comedy Rental Boys for RTÉ’s Storyland. She has gone on to write, direct and produce shorts which screened at festivals around the world. She was commissioned to direct the short film, After You, by Filmbase and TBCT. Gemma has penned articles for magazines, industry websites and national newspapers, she’s the assistant editor for Film Ireland and she contributes reviews to RTE Radio One’s Arena on occasion.

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