The 1960s saw turbulent political and social developments in the wake of World War II and the radical crisis generated by France’s last colonial wars in Indo-China and Algeria. The ramifications of these wars could be seen in the film industry in both France and globally. Moreover, the effects of the Cold War, along with the emergence of several socialist movements which adapted the leftist ideology as well as, the Hollywood hegemony over the international cinema industry paved the way for the advent of the French New Wave and, subsequently, the Third Cinema as a cinema of resistance, not only politically, but also in relation to film language and modes of production and diffusion. On the political level, it reinforced the resistance against colonialism, imperialism, and other kinds of oppression. The New Wave was inspired by Cahiers du cinéma, which began publishing in 1951 under André Bazin’s editorship and nurtured the critical voices of François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette. Godard, a pillar of the new wave, responded to the heightened political environment in the late 1960s by adopting a theoretical methodology based on Marxist-Leninist and Maoist notions, notably present in the films made between Loin du Vietnam (Far from Vietnam, 1967), and Ici et ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere), the latter film co-directed with Anne-Marie Miéville and made over the period 1970-1975.  Many of these films are collective works ascribed to the Groupe Dziga Vertov (GDV), and can best be classified as militant cinema. 

The Groupe Dziga Vertov was mainly led by Godard and the young Maoist militant Jean-Pierre Gorin. Along with the the Marxist classics, they were influenced by contemporary theorists such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, who theorised the power of knowledge and the role of institutions in forming the ideology and the perception of the masses.1 Consequently Godard’s films altered the ways in which we think about cinema, creating new grammar and structure through his work in narration, editing, mise-en-scène, sound and music, and work with actors. Godard’s departure from “mainstream” cinema in 1968 to experiment with collective filmmaking based on explicitly revolutionary Marxist premises was a central inspiration to critics in the 1970s and beyond in debating the form and function of political cinema. He was also motivated by Maoist theory, which contributed significantly to revolutionary filmmaking by developing radically new aesthetic-political performances. These new practices changed our very understanding of political cinema.  For Godard, making films politically entails studying the contradictions that control the relations between production and productive forces and forming knowledge of the revolutionary struggles and their history:

It is necessary to stop making movies on politics, to stop making political movies, and to begin making political movies politically.2

In this article, I will investigate the backstory of Ici et ailleurs, a film which started life as Jusqu’à la Victoire, with filming taking place in the Middle East in 1970. to find the reasons that behind the delays in completing the final version of the film until 1974. To achieve the above goals and reveal the motivations that pushed Godard to produce the film four years after his visit to the Palestinian revolution groups in Jordan, I conducted several interviews with individuals who accompanied the filmmaker’s journey such as Elias Sanbar, as well as Palestinian fighters who had the chance to meet him like Khaled Abu Khaled and Nidal Abu Nazeih. Also, to measure how Godard’s cinema influenced later Palestinian filmmakers, I interviewed the Palestinian film director Michel Khleifi.

Ici et ailleurs

How the Journey Began

In 1969, as anti-capitalist and popular liberation movements in both Europe and the Middle East were rising, Godard approached the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Paris and met with the PLO’s representative Mahmoud al Hamshari, one of the leaders of the political/diplomatic wing of the Fatah movement.3 Godard showed his interest in visiting the Palestinian revolution groups in Jordan to document and film their struggle for freedom and independence. Al Hamshari was delighted to support Godard’s idea as he was a well-known figure in the world of cinema. He asked for Elias Sanbar, one of the leaders of the French branch of the Palestinian Student Union and an activist in the Fateh movement, to join Godard in his mission and facilitate his visit to the revolutionary groups mainly situated in Jordan.4

In an interview with Express Correspondent in Amman, published in the newspaper Al Hadaf in 1969, Godard asserts that the film has two goals. Firstly, to help people struggling against imperialism in different countries. Secondly, he sought to introduce a new genre of film that represents critical political discourse. In his interview, Godard clarified this point: members of the Fateh movement asked him to produce a film about the Palestinian Revolution with PLO funding. After several discussions with representatives from Fateh, he “decided to direct the film, which is not intended to give lessons but to take lessons from the people ahead of us in the Revolution.”5 In this film, Godard confirms that he is trying to use his expertise to express and represent the ideas of the Palestinian Revolution. He was not looking for the sensationalised image of the Palestinans as seen on American and French network television. Instead, he was trying to carry out a political analysis of the Palestinian revolution. 

Godard traveled around Jordan with Elias Sanbar, who arrived in the country a few days after the filmmaker.  They both met with the Palestinian film director Mustafa Abu Ali who accompanied the team on all their visits to the fighters in their different locations.6 Mustafa described his thrill at being able to work with a filmmaker with Godard’s fame, who moreover articulated the same vision of cinema that he also espoused: “We both believe in the vital role of militant cinema. However, Godard deepened my concerns and added a new dimension to my questions regarding the Palestinians’ ability to develop militant cinema.”7

Abu Ali also affirms the revolutionary nature of the ideas that Godard had about cinema. “We talked about it a lot, and we had very convergent thoughts about the role of art in general, and more specifically militant cinema in revolutionary movements. Still, the constant question remained as to how these ideas could be applied and embodied in a movie”. Abu Ali felt Godard was harbouring some of the same doubts. From his companionship with Godard and throughout the period he spent with him during the shooting time, Abu Ali sensed Godard’s confusion and hesitation toward the film’s content on more than one occasion.8

Khadija Habashneh, the ex-wife of Mustafa Abu Ali, says that Godard wants to picture a woman reading (spelling the letters) with difficulty in a literacy lesson. So she selected some newly enrolled women in one of the literacy classes from the community association where she volunteered. “We nominated a woman called Rabiha, who was the last one to register for literacy classes. When Godard came to shoot the scene, Rabiha stood reading fluently. Godard was disappointed as this woman spends most of her time studying what she learned in the literacy lesson. She is approaching her literacy with an exceptional and unexpected time.” Another woman was sought to meet the specifications Godard wanted. This scene appeared in the film to express how the selected woman could hardly read and barely pronounced the words to portray the suffering of these women living in the Revolution and to shed light on their inability to decide their choice.9

Mustafa Abu Ali and Khadijeh Habashneh at the Carthage film festival in Tunisia in 1980.

Habashneh also states, “from what I remember about Godard, he was a very sarcastic man, and I often listened to his severe criticism and his funny comments on political leaders.”10 She added that he constantly carried Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book, which seemed to be his daily guidebook. She will never forget the day we invited him to dinner at our house before he travelled to France. When he looked at the books in our library, he picked up some of them, mainly the ones that talk about him and his films. Godard threw those books in the trash, saying that: “All this film technique is bourgeois rubbish.”11 

Godard spent most of his time with the fighters on the battlefront. He tries to understand the ideology and motivations that led those fighters to sacrifice their life for a revolution and discover their relationship with the political leaders. Therefore, Godard’s concern was to reflect on the Revolution from the inside. Nazih Abu Nidal (whose real name was Ghattas Sweis)12 a fighter in the Fatah movement, knew about Godard before the latter’s trip to Jordan, having been familiar with anti-capitalist films. He was excited when Godard informed him about his desire to join him in two of his lectures at the Al Wihdate-Al Baca refugee camps, with discussions aimed at raising the revolutionary consciousness of the Palestinian people. “Godard came with his camera. He viewed the surrounding environment through the camera’s eyes.” During the presentation, what drew his attention was that “Godard sat among people behind his camera, filming the people’s reactions to the messages they received. He tried to understand how people developed their insight towards the Revolution.” Nidal was certain that Godard ignored everything he was saying in his lectures. The ordinary people and their reactions were the core of his interest.13

Nidal added that Godard focused his camera on the audience’s faces in an attempt at capturing their responses to revolutionary rhetoric. He was curious about their presence oin these events. Godard tried to determine whether this presence was a real one or whether people were forced to participate by the authority that practices the power to promote its ideology. In this sense, his approach is informed by Foucault’s concept of “knowledge-power”. As a Maoist, he believed he could deconstruct this power relation by posing questions such as: Who speaks and acts, from where, for whom, and how? These interrogations were mainly aimed at union delegates, intellectuals, professors, writers, and artists in public speech. This was one of the ways in which Maoist activists could test their legitimacy as revolutionary groups who could critically speak on behalf of the proletariat and lead them toward Revolution.14 

Khaled Abu Khaled, who recently passed away, was a Palestinian poet and fighter responsible for the Fedayeen groups in the Salt area.15 His voice is heard in the film, where he recites a poem he wrote called Bisan, dedicated to his village in occupied Palestine. Abu Khaled fondly remembers his meeting with Godard, saying: “I was so enthusiastic to meet him. As I am a leftist, and I have an interest in cinema, I had heard about Godard’s role in the leftist student movement in France during the sixties. I discussed with him some thoughts on French thinkers and intellectuals as well as his position on Sartre’s attitude toward the role of Arts in politics, as well as those of other thinkers. He was so pleased to talk with me about the values of the French revolutionary movement and how these values can be linked with the Palestinian Revolution”. He added: “Godard came with us to the heart of the battle, under a hail of bullets. He spent some time in the Jordan Valley with the Palestinian fighters on the border of Occupied Palestine. He was enthusiastic about the Palestinian cause because he was a Maoist looking for human justice. He was a brave man who spent time with us in a hazardous location. He believes in the Palestinians’ right to struggle for their freedom. He considered the Palestinian Revolution part of the international liberation movements that aim to stand up against imperialism and capitalism.”16

Khaled Abu Khaled

Here and Elsewhere: The Backstory

The original title of the film commissioned by Fatah’s Information Service Bureau was Jusqu’à la victoire (Until Victory), which was planned to use footage shot in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria during a three-month stay in the spring of 1970. But all this changed shortly after the Dziga Vertov Group’s return to France, when the events of Black September, which saw PLO fighters based in Jordan massacred by the Kingdom’s armed forceds, intervened.

Elias Sanbar relates the effects that Black September had on the project: “I travelled with Godard a few days after his arrival to Jordan. We had a script ready for shooting. We started moving between flashpoints in the conflict in order to experience the real life of the revolutionaries. But we discovered later on how much the actual life is different from the imagined one. When the events of September happened, internal clashes intensified between the Palestinian fighters and the royal regime in Jordan. The political situation was so complicated that we were initially not aware of its ramifications.”17

Black September, Jordan 1970.

The DGV returned to France with more than ten hours of rushes. Sanbar explains that, during the editing process, “Godard asked me to pay attention to the sound coming from the background of the scene. It was the voice of the fighters talking among themselves, describing how they miraculously escaped from the Israeli army who were waiting in ambush for them. The fighters blamed their leaders who pushed them to the heart of the battlefield without any alternative plan. They lacked any safety plan that could keep them secure in a dangerous situation.” For Godard, this discovery was a key turning point, where he mentally recognised the contradiction between the theory manifested in the film’s original script and reality . According to Sanbar, it meant that they were so enthusiastic about the idea of the Revolution that they only saw its positives, and were unable to see the negatives. Sanbar explains that after they experienced the Revolution, they found out the impossibility of filming any revolution from the inside, not due to any technical limitations, but because of the content and the meaning of the revolution. The fact is that Godard went to shoot a revolutionary movie, not a film about revolution. However, the situation became complicated on political and militant levels after the events of “Black September”, and changes had occurred. These political developments postponed production on the film Jusqu’à la victoire to a later stage as the written theoretical scenario did not fit the new situation . So it had become unviable, in this context, to practically apply preconceived theories of cinema and politics. Godard’s decision to postpone the film’s production process came from his strong belief in the possibility of political cinema. Here Godard is to some extent in accord with André Breton’s point of view towards the vital role of  political and militant cinema as “true art”. Breton’s thinking entails a fundamental link between aesthetics and politics. In his view, aesthetic liberation could not be attained without political freedom.18

Sanbar remembered the situation in South Jordan when they spent time with the Fedayeen, and he added that he was 20 years old at that time. “The whole realm was relatively new to me. Among the people we met, some personalities positively affected us to reflect on the film’s script. One of those was an Egyptian doctor named Mahjoub Omar. He was a communist doctor who joined the Revolution. We heard him delivering lectures to educate the fighters on the subject of communists and Revolution. In this position, we release the fundamental role of the intellectual who should be honest with himself, though to be the same person who transfers his believes and thought to areal work.”19 This influential Role for Mahjoub Omar reflects the spirit of Maoist thinkers who combine between the roles of “filmmaker” and “militant”, rejecting what they saw as the “schizophrenic” distinction in Sartre between the art work and active political engagement.20

In the aftermath of all the discussion and soul-searching about the film, Godard started interrogating himself about the functioning of the cinema, and not just in a Palestinian context. The result was the completion, in cooperation with Anne-Marie Miéville, of the film Here and Elsewhere in 1975, with its first public screenings taking place in 1976. Compared to Godard’s other films, the gestation of Ici et ailleurs was particularly protracted. A mixture of photojournalism and TV documentary, this new version of the film has very different goals to those that governed Jusqu’à la victoire in its initial conception. In the new version of the film, Godard deepens its content and gives it an international dimension as he links it with a universal issue.  its wider approach connects the Palestinian revolution with other global changes in politics and media in the 1970s. 

The Palestinian film director, Michel Khleifi, was inspired by Godard’s works and became a filmmaker in his own right with his debut feature Fertile Memories (1980). Born on November 3, 1950 in Nazareth, Israel. Khleifi went on to make Wedding in Galilee (1987), The Tale of the Three Lost Jewels (1995) and Canticle of the Stones (1991).In his work in militant cinema, In Khleifi’s view ,Godard was responding to the new technological developments during the 1970s, especially the invention of television. In addition, Khleifi affirms that Godard was against the culture of television. He believes that television creates a temporary memory that cannot build a collective memory in the way cinema does. The advent of television in daily life produces a new structure of simulation in the modern world.21 As Khleifi states:

Cinema creates memory, and television produces forgetfulness. Godard thinks of the image. Watching a film is a dynamic process related to memory. Watching a film in the cinema encourages individual and collective memory. To illustrate my pointe, one has to get prepared to go to the cinema, buy tickets, take a seat and start watching the movie once the lights are turned off. All these steps are part of automatic collective movements. According to Godard, this strengthens our memory so that the movie becomes a primary memory, unlike television. A picture expels an image, and a sound bounces a sound. You have no possibility of being in a position that receives a memory so that it is preserved in memory. The viewer’s attention is distracted by the factors surrounding them.22

Furthermore, Khleifi points out that Ici et ailleurs produced a new mode of cinematic signification. It is not a propaganda film for political purposes. On the contrary, it provides a critical reading of militant cinema and the importance of cinema and its relationship with revolutionary rhetoric. Nevertheless, Khleifi adds, for Godard the most critical factor in the Revolution is not the slogan (“Revolution until Victory”), it is the human experience behind this slogan that is the main thing. For Khleifi, Godard’s global influence for political cinema has been an enduring one:

Godard is the most influential person in world cinema, even American cinema, from the seventies until today. […] He represents different scenes separately in a continuous attempt to break spectatorial identification, and to attract the audience to reality. Through this methodological work, Godard conveys a message that highlights the importance of reality.23


Ici et ailleurs faced several critics after its release, both in Palestine  and on an international level. The French critic Guy Hennebelle is exemplary of this tendence: Ici et ailleurs is simply stupid and unhelpful, although some fellow filmmakers liked it, I don’t understand why. For me personally, I think Godard has no right to make a film like this one, about an important and serious issue like the Palestinian Revolution, for which many men and women are martyred as they struggle relentlessly.”24 On the other hand, many film makers and intellectuals believe that Godard uses his film Ici et ailleurs to provoke questions on the Palestinian revolution rather than narrating history. Through this film he is making images  about the Palestinian Revolution, and not merely taking images. He uses his camera as an epistemological tool that can  document  invisible action. In doing so, Godard  goes beyond  the ideology of propagandistic cinema. With its critique of the  role of the political apparatus in shaping and forming the ideology of the people, this film has, in the end, proved to be a turning point in the development of Godard’s “theoretical practice” of political cinema. Through these efforts, Godard crafted his own understanding of the role of cinema and other art forms in the revolutionary struggle.


  1. See Michael Sicinski, ,“A Spectre Is Haunting…: The Dziga Vertov Group”, https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/a-spectre-is-haunting-the-dziga-vertov-group
  2. Cited in David Fresko, “Revolutionary Cinematic Suicide, Godard+Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971”, https://brooklynrail.org/2018/06/film/Revolutionary-Cinematic-Suicide
  3. Al Hamshari was the first director of the Palestine office in France, and is considered one of the first architects of Palestinian diplomatic work. He was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad and was martyred on October 1,1973.
  4. Elias Sanbar later became a writer and historian and is currently the State of Palestine’s ambassador to UNESCO/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
  5. Interview with Jean-Luc Godard, Express Correspondent in Amman, Jordan 1969. Source: Al Hadaf, https://palestinefilms.org/article/2020/8/31/%D8%BA%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86?fbclid=IwAR30PDkqJbfp6JmmNmWJ3B9WIbTAZ22R-KzuG7w0dqb5T3y0VoWBRvFgemw
  6. Mustafa Abu Ali was born in the village of Al-Malha, occupied Jerusalem, on November 25, 1940. He studied there before his family migrated to Bethlehem after the Deir Yassin massacre.
  7. Interview with Yousef Al Shayb, Al-Ayam newspaper, August 4, 2009.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Khadijeh Habashneh, Knights of Cinema (Amman, 2020), Chapter 3.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Born to a Jordanian family from the city of Fuheis, Nazih Abu Nidal (Ghattas Sweis) was a fighter in the Fatah movement, where he worked in the field of media and political delegation in the fighters’ bases. Today he is a journalist and writer.
  13. Zoom interview with Nazih Abu Nidal (Ghattas Sweis). June 8, 2021.
  14. Ryan Babula, “The Politics Of Pre-Political Godard: Alphaville, Made In USA”, Cine-files 2 (Spring 2012), http://www.thecine-files.com/past-issues/spring-2012-issue/featured-articles/politicsgodard/
  15. Khaled Abu Khaled was a Palestinian writer, journalist and media person. He joined the ranks of the resistance and became the leader of the northern sector in the Palestinian revolution in Jordan.
  16. Phone interview with Khaled Abu Khaled, June 20, 2021.
  17. Zoom interview with Elias Sanbar, June 4, 2021.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Irmgard Emmelhainz, “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean‐Luc Godard and the Palestine Question”, Third Text, 23:5 (2009), 649-656, doi:10.1080/09528820903185051
  21. Zoom interview with Michel Khleifi, July 1, 2021.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Walid Shmait and Guy Hennebelle, Filistin fi-s-sinema, 2nd ed. (Beirut/Paris: Fayard, 1977).