“Material for a Film”: Retracing Wael Zuaiter-Emily Jacir-Schuyler DeMarinis

Emily Jacir grew up in Saudi Arabia as a child and attended high school in Italy. From there she moved to the United States for her higher education and attended Memphis College of Art in Memphis, Tennessee. She now lives in Rome, Italy, and Ramallah. She is now an accomplished artist and filmmaker who uses a variety of mediums ranging from film, photography, installation, performance, video, and sound. As an accomplished artist, she has exhibited her work throughout Europe, the United States, and the Middle East including plenty of solo exhibitions. Jacir plays a significant role in the art scene of Ramallah and is an active supporter and activist for Palestinian rights and respect.


“Material for a Film”: Retracing Wael Zuaiter is a mixed media installation that was exhibited at the La Biennale di Venezia from 2005-2007. It is composed of photographs, text, video, and sound pieces. These materials were gathered by Jacir from her friendship with Zuaiter and his partner Janet Venn-Brown and from when she visited the apartment where Wael Zuaiter had been living as walking back to when he was shot 12 times with a .22 caliber pistol by Mossad Agents. Jacir wanted to create an installation that brought light how Wael Zuaiter was a “lover and pacifist” and not a terrorist. The installation contained “one of Zuaiter’s favorite pieces of music, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, played at the exhibition’s entrance; a clip from the 1963 film The Pink Panther, in which he played an extra, was shown elsewhere. A large photographic print captured an inspiring selection of books that Zuaiter owned, including Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855) and Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading (1934).”

Wael Zuaiter is a Palestinian translator and also often known as a writer, artist, and poet. When he was shot he was in the process of translating “One Thousand and One Nights” from Arabic to Italian, a book of folk tales, which at this point had not yet been done before and still to this day has not been. Zuaiter was linked to the Black September attack in Munich during the 1972 Summer Olympics. The Palestinian terrorist group Black performed the Munich massacre September against the Israeli’s. They managed to kill 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team as well as one German police officer. Wael Zuaiter was “never conclusively linked” to the terrorist attacks and wrongfully murdered. This is what Emily Jacir wants to present to the public through the means of showing his life to the viewers of the installation. Jacir believes that through his story that “thousands of other Palestinians could be told.”

Since the exhibit was presented in 2005, it has been under some scrutiny for its legitimacy and covering of the whole story. Rachel Cooke from the “Guardian” wrote “It seems odd that the Munich massacre…” is not detailed or explained in the notes on the installation. All information that had linked him to Black September and the Munich massacre was not included in Jacir’s work. It is thought that Jacir was “manipulating her material, leaving out anything that might be suspicious or incriminating.” I find that this is a problem that documentaries have to deal with whether it is true or not. The artist clearly decides what they want to present to the artist and how that story will be told.


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