The Turtle's Rage

The Turtle's Rage


Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

Can turtles rage? It’s an unlikely image, and as the title of Pary El-Qalqili’s documentary (original title: Schildkrötenwut), it evokes something of a paradox: that of a gentle and lovable creature harbouring resentment and/or fury. In this instance, the turtle is El-Qalqili’s own father, Musa, who at the beginning of the film has returned from Palestine to retreat to the basement of his family’s German home – like a turtle does to its shell. Setting her camera on a tripod, El-Qalqili asks her father to sit down with her as she begins to ask him about a range of subjects relating to Palestine, to whose freedom he has dedicated much of his life. Interspersed with this interview is footage of the director travelling with her father to Palestine (via Egypt on land, since he is forbidden to fly there due to participation in past years with an NGO).

Musa, we learn, is one of 18 children born in a Bedouin family, and arrived in Germany in 1964 to work as a construction worker. He is “waiting to return to Palestine” – the implication being that this is denied not just geographically but in ideological terms also. How can one return to a home whose very existence is denied?

Copy picture

In simple terms the deniers are Israel, of course, but for Musa “there are traitors and there are those who fight traitors”. By extension, any nations or peoples not actively taking up support for the Palestinian cause are contributing to its ongoing negation.

The Turtle’s Rage foregrounds the unseen ways in which Palestinians are continually refused an identity. At one point, Musa recalls having his passport literally taken from him, which he describes as being worse than a beating: “beatings are for donkeys, beatings are nothing”.

El-Qalqili Sr. is a fiery figure who seems unable to sit with his daughter without finding some point of contention in the wording of her questions – and, in fairness, the director doubles as devil’s advocate, poking and prodding her father’s irritability with wry mischief. As the film goes on, she begins to appear tired and/or bored – worn down by Musa’s inexhaustible angst. It makes for an unexpectedly poignant moment between the pair when, at one point during their voyage to Musa’s de facto hometown Qalqilya, in the West Bank, Pary asks her father to overcome his fear of the sea and walk with her onto a beach and to the shoreline. It’s almost impossible to accept that a man so apparently intransigent in rhetoric and deeds can be so palpably petrified of water.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2013
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"We will not return. We cannot. Where would we return to?" - a personal consideration of Palestine.

Director: Pary El-Qalqili

Starring: Musa El-Qalqili, Sibylle El-Qalqili, Pary El-Qalqili, Maliha Abu Jaber, Um Massad El-Qalqili

Year: 2012

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: Germany


EIFF 2013

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