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A scene from director Mats Grorud’s animated feature “The Tower,” part of the Boston Palestine Film Festival.
A scene from director Mats Grorud’s animated feature “The Tower,” part of the Boston Palestine Film Festival.

The 13th annual Boston Palestine Film Festival runs to Oct. 27 with a lineup of features and shorts that explore Palestinian identity throughout the world.

Notable screenings include Bassam Jarbawi’s directing debut, “Screwdriver” (Oct. 25, 7 p.m., Brattle Theatre). Set in a refugee camp outside Ramallah, the film is about Ziad (Ziad Bakri) who’s just been released after 15 years in an Israeli prison. At 18, Ziad saw his best friend killed by an Israeli sniper. Grief-stricken, he joined a group of young men in search of the sniper. When the police appeared, the group scattered and only Ziad was caught. “Screwdriver” depicts Ziad’s struggles to re-adjust into his life and community. He’s hailed by family and friends as a hero, yet he has difficulty coping day to day, from dating to using a cellphone, and the past continues to haunt him.

Director Mats Grorud will be in attendance for a conversation about his animated feature “The Tower,” which closes the festival (Oct. 27, 3 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts). This animated film tells the story of Palestine through four generations, starting with Wardi, a young Palestinian girl who lives in a Lebanese refugee camp with her great-grandfather Sidi, one of the first people to settle there after being exiled from his home, in 1948.


“The Tower” is preceded by Wisam Al Jafari’s short film “Ambience,” which is also set in a refugee camp. Two young Palestinians find creative ways to record music in order to enter a talent competition. The film took third-place honors for the Cinefondation Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “Ambiance” also screens in a shorts program Oct. 26, 1 p.m., at the MFA. Titled “Palestine Dreams and Nightmares,” the slate of shorts includes three by women filmmakers: Saliba Rishmawi’s “Sawsan,” about a young woman who defies her mother, runs away from home and ventures into Bethlehem’s nightlife; Sa’ed Arouri’s “Setback of the Spirit” which unfolds in the future, when the occupation has ended and a grandson returns with his grandmother to the home she was forced to leave in 1967. Farah Nabulsi’s animated, experimental short “Nightmare of Gaza” is a tale about mothers in the Gaza Strip.

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More festival fare

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The Boston Asian American Film Festival, New England’s largest Asian-American film festival, celebrates its 11th year Oct. 24-27 at the Brattle Theatre, ArtsEmerson Paramount Center, and Pao Arts Center. Opening the festival is Sasie Sealy’s debut feature, “Lucky Grandma” (6:45 p.m., Brattle, with an encore screening at 9:45 p.m.). This dark comedy stars veteran actress Tsai Chin (“The Joy Luck Club,” “Casino Royale”) as a Chinese-American widow in New York City. She finds herself caught in a Chinatown gang war after she impulsively swipes a bag of cash from a dead man on the bus leaving a casino (scenes were shot at Foxwoods) where she gambled away her savings. Desperate to protect herself, Grandma employs the services of a bodyguard (Corey Ha) from a rival gang.

“Go Back to China” (Oct. 26, 6 p.m., Paramount Center) is director Emily Ting’s comedy about a spoiled young woman who, after spending most of her trust fund, is ordered by her father to return to China and work for the family toy business. Ting will engage in a Skype Q&A following the screening.

BAAFF shorts programs include Queer and Here (Oct. 26, 9 p.m., Paramount), with five scripted short films, including Monica Cho’s “Glorious Mrs. Kim,” about a Korean mother accepting her drag queen son; and David Scala’s “Engaged,” about a young man who keeps trying and failing to propose to his boyfriend.

Another shorts program (Oct. 27, noon, Paramount Center) offers seven films on the theme of discovery. These include Max Cho’s “The Ice Cake Man” about a man bidding goodbye to his dying grandfather; Erin Lau’s coming-of-age tale “The Moon and the Night,” set in rural Hawaii; and Liz Sargent’s “A Strangers’ Reunion” about a Korean-American adoptee who travels to Hong Kong to meet her birth mother.


The BAAFF closes with “Yellow RoseQ” (Oct. 27, 6 p.m., Paramount Center), directed by Diana Paragas. It’s about an undocumented Filipino girl, Rose, who dreams of leaving her small Texas town to become a country music performer. When her mother gets picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Rose flees the life she knows to make a new home in Austin.

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Loren King can be reached at