After four years of work, Heidi Grunebaum and Mark Kaplan’s feature-length documentary film, The Village Under the Forest (Grey Matter Media, 2013), had its world premier at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in June 2013. Unfolding as a personal meditation from the Jewish diaspora, The Village Under the Forest explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under a purposefully cultivated forest plantation called South Africa Forest. Using the forest and the village ruins as metaphors, the documentary explores themes related to the erasure of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and the persistence of memory. Through a multi-layered visual, aural and narrative assemblage, the film asks that we imagine a shared future as an ethical obligation in which dignity, acknowledgement, return and co-habitation may be possible in Israel/Palestine.
The Village Under the Forest won the 2013 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival audience award for best South African documentary of 2013. Its world premier at the festival (6-16 June) was covered widely in national electronic media and film industry publications, as well as in reviews and interviews with the filmmakers. The film also attracted international reviews and coverage.
In 2013 The Village under the Forest screened to sold-out audiences at the Tri Continental Human Rights Film Festival in South Africa (13-29 September), at independent cinemas, the Labia (Cape Town), The Nielsie (Stellenbosch), The Bioscope (Johannesburg), and Spiga D’Oro (Durban), as well as at the District 6 Museum (Cape Town). Screenings were followed by lively discussions in audience Q & As with the filmmakers. In January 2014, the film was screened at UCT’s Summer School as part of an offering on contemporary issues in the Middle East.
The Village Under the Forest was also selected for the Boston Palestine Festival held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA, and was an official selection for the competition section of the ‘Al Ard’ Film Festival, Sardinia, Italy. In November, Arabic and Hebrew subtitled versions of the film were screened at the first ever film festival on the Palestinian Nakba in Israel, organized by Zochrot, and screened at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque. In 2014 the film was screened at festivals and events in Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.