Years after leaving her Palestinian village to pursue an acting career in France, Hiam Abbass returns home with her daughter, in this intimate documentary about four generations of women and their shared legacy of separation.
Bye Bye Tiberias is the International Feature submission for Palestine. Surrounded by Lebanon, Syria and Jordan is Tiberias, a small town along the Sea of Galilee. Under British rule, in 1948, fighting broke out between the Jewish residents of Tiberias and its Palestinian Arab minority. British troops evacuated the entire Palestinian Arab population forcing them to settle along the borders of Lebanon or in Syria. They were refused reentry after the war, and as such today the entire city is exclusively Jewish population.
Born in Paris, Lina Soualem, the daughter of Hiam Abbass, now takes a look at her past through the eyes of three generations: her great-grandmother Um Ali, her grandmother Nemat and her mother Hiam, best known for her work in the Emmy winning show Succession. Hiam and Lina return back to Palestine after Abbass left her town in the early twenties to pursue her dream of becoming an actress in Europe. In the process, she left behind her mother, her grandmother and her nine siblings.
The film focuses on the events of 1948, where after being forced to leave their home, Um Ali and her family settled down in Deir Hanna. As a seamstress and after the loss of her husband, she took care of her eight children before passing away when Lina was ten. One of Um Ali’s children was Nemat, a primary school teacher, who had ten children including Hiam. Bye Bye Tiberias delicately explains how Nemat and Hiam clashed profoundly with tradition and Abbas’ pursuit to leave her country and become an actress. Lina would become the first child to be born away from Palestine, and they would only reconnect with their family decades later.
Bye Bye Tiberias is a story of vanished places and scattered memories. It’s about women who learned to leave everything behind to start anew. Shown through photos, private videos, poems and letters, Lina creates an affecting, ceremonial patchwork of the women in her family. It’s a tribute to the bravery and perseverance of women who managed to take their destiny into their own hands, despite being forced to leave everything behind due to the creation of the Israeli state. More than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced during the events of 1948.
When you fly away, it hurts those you leave and yourself too. As Hiam said goodbye to Tiberias thirty years ago, the film showcases how broken things come back together over and over again. Maybe goodbye isn’t always goodbye but a see you later.