Triangle-based film director Tariq Nasir wants more people talking together about what it means to be free.
The conversation starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Let’s All Be Free Film Festival at the Full Frame Theater at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.
Nasir, founder of Unusuality Productions, launched the festival in London in 2013 to help emerging filmmakers share their stories and audiences develop empathy for each other. Saturday will mark the festival’s U.S. debut.
“I’m excited to bring it here, because I know this area is very enlightened and people are very open to different experiences and at least trying things,” he said.
The Chapel Hill resident was born in New York to a Palestinian father and American mother who moved the family to Jerusalem in 1964. Nasir was 4 when they fled to Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967. He understood little about what was happening, he said, but remembers clearly the fear.
“Even being that young, it still shapes you and you still remember some things, the feeling of when a bomb goes off and how that reverberates through your body, those are the kinds of things you remember. Seeing dead bodies,” he said. “I think one of the biggest things that affects you is the reactions of people around you.”
That story and the story of how his father’s family fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli War are documented in Nasir’s first film, “Belonging.”
While his father’s position as a respected university professor gave them a better life in Jordan than refugees experienced in the camps, Nasir said, he started to notice how they and other Palestinians were being mistreated and oppressed. That will not work forever, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that the Israelis still think might equals right, because I think in the long run, things have to change,” he said, “and it will be the Israelis – this is one of the things where I talk about dialogue with people of like mind – who (have to) help change things, because they have the power.”
Nasir eventually built a successful career in finance, moving his family to Chapel Hill but never forgetting his past or long-held desire to be an artist. He launched Unusuality Productions in 2005 and sought conflict-resolution and diversity training. He gave workshops centered on dialogue and understanding, especially between Israelis and Palestinians.
Unusuality Productions kicked off its multimedia project – Let’s All Be Free – in 2012 and wrapped up its third film festival in November with three days of art, poetry and roughly 30 short and feature films. Experts in several fields, from economists to philosophers, joined the conversations.
The Duke event will be smaller, with three short films from the 2015 festival, a panel discussion and public dialogue. Nasir also plans to premiere his latest work, “From Here,” a film that explores the occupation of indigenous people’s land through experimental dance.
Mutual understanding is even more important in light of current events, Nasir said. While bombs give politicians power, they also divide people instead of solving problems, he said, and those without power, no matter their nationality, will do what is necessary to protect their families.
“It’s always at the expense of someone else, and that just seems like that’s a sad way to have to propel yourself forward, by putting other people down,” he said. “It should be that we all move forward by lifting each other up.”