Al Haya Tourism
‘Life Is Beautiful’ Review: An Upbeat Self-Portrait of a Palestinian Stranded in the Far North
Gaza City native Mohamed Jabaly’s unexpected long exile in Norway provides an ingratiating seriocomic diversion from grave current events in his homeland.
By Dennis Harvey
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Frizzy-haired Jabaly, who clearly has no qualms about being his own camera subject, is introduced saying “There was no film school in Gaza. … I had to learn by doing.” Attracted to the medium from an early age, he was teaching film and video at a Gaza media center by age 21. In 2013, a twin-city exchange introduces him to Hermann Greuel of the Nordic Youth Film Festival, who then invites him to visit Tromso as a guest educator. He travels to different towns in the Norwegian north, talking about his work in Gaza, giddily experiencing things utterly foreign to him — extreme cold, walking on ice, skiing, northern lights. It is a pleasant sojourn.
Unfortunately, while Mohamed is enjoying his first taste of Europe, things back home have taken a turn. Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, “the only gateway between Palestinians and the rest of the world,” has long been problematic and frequently shut. But now it closes seemingly for good, barring our protagonist’s return.
Hermann and wife Martha are happy to let him stay under their roof, but how long that will be possible is another matter. His tourist visa expires; as his nationality is unrecognized by the Norwegian government, he gets classified as “stateless”; applying for an artist’s residency permit is complicated by his lack of a film-school certificate. This despite the fact that he is soon an award-winning director — he uses the time stranded here to edit footage from a prior emergency-medical-response volunteer stint when Gaza was under missile fire into 2017 feature “Ambulance,” which nabs festival prizes.
Late in the going here, circumstances change once again. The director is finally allowed a Gaza City return — though by then he’s already decided he’ll continue pursuing the academic and professional paths opened to him in his Scandinavian “second home.” Unsurprisingly perhaps, yet infuriatingly, this much-delayed homecoming is stalled further by long hours of official detainment and questioning, provoking the only expressions of rage we see from Jabaly. It’s almost the sole moment here, apart from some footage from “Ambulance,” when the bitter realities of a Palestinian identity are pushed into the foreground.
The lack of more such ballasting and contextualizing material makes “Life Is Beautiful” a bit superficial — even when the stressful uncertainty of his status eventually stirs depression, Jabaly’s film doesn’t dig deep enough to be as potent as it might be. Of course, he may simply be an unusually adaptable person as well-suited as anyone could be to circumstances that might traumatize another. He certainly is ingratiating, even if after a while you might wish his movie aimed less to please than toward greater insight.
Please it does, however, with the diaristic elements of hand-held camera or Zoom calls balanced out by some very handsome views of spectacular landscapes and skies in Northern Norway. The outdoor temperatures may be Arctic, but the welcoming indoor temperament as painted by a stranded stranger here is downright toasty.
Reviewed at IDFA (online), Nov. 11. Running time: 92 MIN. (Original title: “Al Haya Helwa”)
- Production: (Norway-Palestine – Documentary) A Stray Dogs Norway production, in co-production with Jabali Film, Al Jazeera. (World sales: First Hand Films, Zurich.) Producers: KriStine Ann Skaret, Sarah Winge-Sorensen. Co-producers: Mohamed Jabaly, Anad Abdelwahab, Muhammad Refaat. Executive producers: Mohanad Yaqubi, Esther Van Messel, Anne Fabini.
- Crew: Director: Mohamed Jabaly. Camera: Jabaly. Editor: Erland Edenholm. Music: Gaute Barlindhaug.
- With: Mohamed Jabaly. (English, Arabic, Norwegian dialogue)
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Qatar streamlines tourist visa applications with revamped Hayya platform
Taking place with immediate effect, the platform will become the single portal for all tourist and business visas to the country
Qatar Tourism has announced that it has re-launched the Hayya Platform.
Taking place with immediate effect, the Hayya Platform will become the single portal for all tourist and business visas to Qatar. This will unify visa processes for tourists, GCC residents and companions travelling with GCC citizens.
Tourists who require a visa to enter Qatar can apply through the Hayya Platform at www.hayya.qa, or through the application on their smartphones, and visit Doha, the Arab Tourism Capital of 2023.
In addition, Hayya holders will enjoy seamless travel and connectivity into Qatar as Hayya will be enabled for e-gate entry at Hamad International Airport.
Meanwhile, for those entering Qatar via land at the Abu Samra border, the Hayya Platform will provide a pre-registration option for faster entry for vehicles, making the start of a weekend getaway or longer stay in Qatar even smoother and more enjoyable.
For GCC nationals, the platform provides an option to apply for an entry permit for companions. The Hayya Platform also provides further services that help round out a visitor’s stay, including maps, transportation options, offers and current events.
Visit the Hayya Portal – a portal where travellers, who require a visa to Qatar, can smoothly apply for the visa for upto 30 days ✈️ For GCC nationals, the application provides an option to apply for a GCC Companion Entry Permit! — Visit Qatar (@VisitQatar) April 16, 2023
Commenting on the latest initiative, chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar’s national tourism strategy seeks to welcome over six million visitors a year by 2030. Already, Qatar is considered the most open country in terms of visa facilitation in the Middle East and the 8th most open globally, with more than 95 nationalities granted visa on arrival. We are pleased that the latest developments will further cement Qatar’s position as a leading tourism destination and will provide the opportunity for even more travellers to experience the country’s truly unique touristic offering.”
Saeed Ali Al Kuwari, CEO of the Hayya Platform, commented: “The re-launch of the Haya Platform in its new form today is an extension of the strategic vision that the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy had previously developed, a vision that centres on the sustainable legacy of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. The launch represents a means by which we will truly sustain the legacy of the World Cup.
Previously, the Hayya card allowed fans from around the world to enter Qatar to watch their favourite teams during the world’s biggest football event. Today, the Hayya Platform is the legacy which we build upon, inviting visitors from all corners of the earth to visit our country and enjoy its authenticity, history, culture, hospitality, natural beauty and much more.”
Following the success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Qatar has continued to welcome record-breaking numbers of tourists in the first quarter of this year. The country’s culture, natural beauty and hospitality and leisure venues were experienced directly by international visitors during the world’s biggest sporting event late last year and witnessed by billions more remotely.
Visitors to Qatar will be privy to Qatar’s recently expanded hospitality and leisure landscape, which includes beaches and resorts, such as Fuwairit Kite Beach with its shores, and West Bay Beach.
In addition, families can enjoy shopping and dining destinations such as Printemps and Place Vendôme, museums including the National Museum of Qatar and the recently re-opened Museum of Islamic Art, all while selecting their stay from a collection of newly opened international and home-grown hotels including The Ned Doha, Raffles and Fairmont Doha and The Outpost at Al Barari.
Read: Hayya Card holders can enter Qatar until January 2024
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