Saris was a Palestinian village in the Jerusalem area that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel. Today, it is inhabited by Israelis.
Shifting between the stories of Saris refugees (young and old) in Qalandiya Refugee Camp in the West Bank, stories of displaced families in present-day Jerusalem, and fragments of a car journey by three Saris refugees as they return to their village of origin, Searching for Saris is a film in search of the connections between past and present, Nakba* and occupation, and a testimony to ongoing dispossession and to the persistent dream of return.
Part metaphor, part physical journey, the search for Saris that gives the film its title, is in fact a search for a disappearing Palestine. Saris is, at once, a physical place that was lost, and a metaphor for an entire country. With images of the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and using rare archival footage from 1948, the film explores the legacy of the Nakba and the link between past and present dispossession. The archive footage also offers a rare glimpse of Palestinian life before catastrophe. With a rich soundtrack of contemporary electronic music, as well as an original score, the film relies only on the voice-over narration of refugees: younger refugees who reflect on their present condition, as they struggle in the face of new and ongoing hardships, and elder refugees who reflect on the events of the Nakba that uprooted them from their lives. Their voices are also used to narrate the story of the present dispossession faced by a newer generation of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The common view of the Nakba is of a historical event and tragedy that is etched in the memories of an older and now disappearing generation, that cannot forget. The film reveals how, for many, the line between the trauma of the Nakba and the subsequent trauma of occupation, cannot be clearly drawn. For others still, the experience of dispossession and oppression, spanning 6 decades, is one long and unending Nakba.
Searching for Saris reveals Palestinian voices for whom past and present collapse into a singular, ongoing experience.
* Nakba is the Arabic word for "catastrophe", and refers to the events of 1948 in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were violently expelled from their homes in cities, towns and villages across Palestine, as part of the process of establishing the Jewish state of Israel.