A PALESTINIAN activist who played a major part in a story that history has overlooked is to be guest of honour at a Scottish festival that focuses on social justice.

Naila Ayesh was just eight years old when her house was bulldozed by the Israeli military; years later, she was arrested and suffered such brutal mistreatment in jail that she miscarried.

She continued to fight for justice, however, and a film documenting her and other women’s crucial – but unsung – contribution to the first Intifada in the late 1980s is to close the Take One Action Festival this autumn.

With many men deported or arrested at the time, women played a prominent role in the non-violent struggle for Palestinian self-determination, only for their input to be ignored when exiled leader Yasser Arafat returned and established the entirely male-led Palestinian Authority in 1994.

“Through the experiences of these female activists in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Naila And The Uprising shows what is possible when women take the lead in struggles for rights and justice – while also highlighting what is lost when women’s leadership is side-lined,” said festival director Tamara Van Strijthem.

“Despite the deliberate obscuring of women’s crucial role in the first Intifada, however, the legacy of their efforts still reverberates through contemporary Palestinian resistance and has paved the way for the rise of young activists such as Ahed Tamimi.”


WOMEN’S empowerment has been a growing focus of the festival in the last five years and the relevance of Naila And The Uprising extends far beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territories, according to Van Strijthem.

“The film’s richly textured mix of archive footage, animation and interviews weaves together the testimonies of many of the women who were actively engaged in the first Intifada, allowing us to witness the tremendous power of strategic community organising,” she said.

“Drawing on all the hallmarks of nonviolent civil resistance, women’s committees were able to mobilise hundreds of thousands through massive street rallies, mobile health clinics, underground schools and concerted boycott campaigns, sustaining the uprising while generating indigenous self-sufficiency.

“As women across the globe continue their struggle for basic freedoms, the film highlights the power of women-led civil resistance, which can rally communities, put pressure on those in power and effect real structural change.”

Van Strijthem said she had been awed by Ayesh’s “humility, raucous humour, strength and resilience” when she met her earlier this year at a human rights film festival.

“I was determined to bring this beautiful and inspiring documentary to Take One Action and we are so pleased to be welcoming Naila herself to Scotland, which has such strong links with Palestinian solidarity movements and which is championing female leaders in politics, science and culture.”

As well as attending the film, Ayesh will be giving the keynote address at a special event celebrating women’s role in change-making, held at Glasgow Women’s Library.


NAILA And The Uprising is just one of the films forming part of the Sisters strand at the festival, which takes place in Glasgow and Edinburgh from September 12 to 23, before moving on to Aberdeen and Inverness in November.

“If we are to shift towards a fairer, kinder and more sustainable world – one in which peace, environmental and social justice prevail – women’s empowerment plays a fundamental role in helping us get there,” said Van Strijthem.

“The films in our Sisters strand reflect a wide range of experiences, hopes and struggles, with rousing, complex portraits of female trailblazers unapologetically pushing for radical change.”

These include two South African grandmothers embarking on a defiant struggle for social justice in their poverty-stricken mining town in Strike A Rock; the first female Muslim Somali refugee to be elected to the US House of Representatives in Time For Ilhan, and a raw, intimate account of one woman’s search for a different path to healing and justice, 20 years after she escaped the man who abused her, in A Better Man (which the film’s protagonist, Attiya Khan, co-directed).


MEANWHILE, music documentary Silvana probes the complex ambitions of a punk hip hop star whose queer, feminist, anti-racist lyrics expose the many prejudices bubbling under the surface of Sweden’s progressive image.

The Silvana screenings will be followed by special performances by Scotland-based music and spoken word artists whose work explores women’s empowerment, marginalised experiences and notions of belonging – including hip hop artist Erin Friel and poets Tawona Sithole, Nadine Aisha Jassat and Katie Ailes.

The festival’s continued commitment to championing women’s empowerment is also reflected in the programme, with 60 per cent of the films on offer having been directed or co-directed by women.

The festival presents over 45 events in total, with venues ranging from a boutique two-seater cinema in a refurbished Leith police box to community spaces, as well as Scotland’s foremost independent cinemas, Edinburgh Filmhouse and the GFT.


A COMMON thread weaving through many of the films in this year’s programme is the reality of displacement and the root causes of migration. These will be explored more specifically in a series of short film programmes, presented at three special community events.

Take One Action will join forces with Kinning Park Complex for a Social Sunday takeover, which will also involve a meal, a bike repair workshop and activities for kids. At Maryhill Integration Network, the short films have been curated by members of the community who will take part in a conversation exploring how these stories reflect their own experiences as refugees, while the screening at Leith’s Out Of The Blue Drill Hall will be accompanied by a meal cooked by Refugee Community Kitchen.


CLIMATE change is, of course, also fuelling displacement across the globe and the festival will open with the UK premiere of Sundance title, Anote’s Ark, which explores the fragile future of low-lying Pacific island nations.

Liberian activist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Silas Siakor is the focus of Silas which pays tribute to his commitment to expose and crush illegal logging and land rights violations and to embolden communities to seize back control of their lands.

The Green Lie, a UK premiere, is both a tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious exploration of corporate greenwashing, while The Cloud Forest, a European premiere, offers an intimate portrait of a Mexican community’s radical redefining of their relationship to nature and each other to save an endangered ecosystem.

Every screening will be followed by a conversation enabling audiences to explore their own connection to the issues at the heart of the films with journalists, campaigners, politicians or the protagonists and filmmakers. The programme also includes additional workshops, masterclasses and events.

Tickets for Edinburgh and Glasgow screenings are available now from takeoneaction.org.uk/events or through the cinema venues.