Fadia’s Tree is a story of inherited memories, belonging and migration. The camera gazes up at migratory birds in the sky to reflect upon the arbitrariness of the borders below, which serve only to control and restrict movement. Combining a poetic narrative style of documentary making with journalism techniques in the form of snippets of information about the Palestinian occupation, this Over the Fence production, directed by Sarah Beddington, is a film about a Palestinian refugee whose dreams soar above the confines of the refugee camp in Lebanon, where she lives.
The mulberry tree outside Fadia’s grandparents’ house (a home that she also identifies as her own) is beautifully juxtaposed with information about the migratory patterns of birds that cross over Palestine as the meeting point between Asia, Africa and Europe. Nets are hung like borders to catch the birds so that they do not integrate, as the ornithologists explain. But birds will always exist beyond borders, reminding us that life gains meaning thus – as in Fadia’s dream of the window to the world beyond.
Her pining for the tree, which she remembers through stories and the vision of her blind uncle, sets the parameters for the film as a quest for this symbol of her wish. This culminates in a visually striking scene where Fadia stands by the window overlooking a wall that is covered in bullet holes, claiming that, “A window can always show me the beautiful world I dream of.”
Combining short clips of beautiful scenery with poetic reflections, this film seeks to present a romantic lens through which we encounter tales of the oppressed “other”, but it occasionally fetishises that “other”. When speaking of her love of being between the moon and sun – something she never experiences in the camp – Fadia is also inferring the condition of nowhereness that defines exile. More could have been done with this allegory and its emotional impact. At times, the engagement with the main character could benefit from further depth, and draw attention to the relationship Fadia forms with the world about her.
Fadia’s Tree is released in select cinemas on 5th August 2022.
Watch the trailer for Fadia’s Tree here: