Zatoun – a life story, in 4 part
an audio documentary produced by Michael Riordon
In four audio documentaries (17–19 minutes each), Zatoun – a life story explores the genesis and evolution of a unique grassroots initiative to bring fair trade organic olive oil from farmer co-operatives in Palestine to North America. Zatoun is the Arabic word for olive.
Traces the parallel but very different journeys of Robert Massoud and Nasser Abufarha, whose lives both began in the cauldron of Palestine-Israel. Robert’s family fled to Canada; Nasser’s remained in al-Jalame, under Israeli military occupation. In 2003, Nasser created the Palestine Fair Trade Association, and Robert created Zatoun. Now linked, both projects are vital expressions of Palestinian survival.
Explores how several people in Canada and the US help to build Zatoun: an Israeli Jew now living in Toronto, a Québecoise who married a Palestinian, a Canadian Jewish doctor who works in a low income neighbourhood, a peace education worker with the American Friends Service Committee in Atlanta, Georgia, and a woman who lives on a back road in rural Leeds County, Ontario.
Investigates the multiple layers of meaning that olive trees, their fruit and oil hold for Palestinians, as well as for people who distribute Zatoun throughout Canada and the US. We look at how different volunteers actually sell the olive oil, and another crucial role it plays, as a vehicle for conveying a commodity rarely encountered in the North American mainstream media: a real sense of life-on-the-ground in occupied Palestine.
Explores the enormous obstacles to survival that olive farmers and processors face in the West Bank; the fair trade life line that Zatoun represents for the farmers; and two projects that Zatoun helps to sustain: Trees for Life, which provides olive saplings to replace the millions of trees destroyed by the occupation, settlements and The Wall; and Project Hope, that brings art and language programs – vehicles for self-expression – to children forced to grow up in some of the West Bank’s largest refugee camps.
About the documentary-maker
Zatoun is eternally grateful to Michael Riordon, a writer and documentary–maker whose award-winning work over four decades has been to recover voices of people who have been silenced in the mainstream, to learn more.
Michael Riordon was born in Montreal, Quebec. He was educated mainly after “escaping the education system.” He has written books, radio dramas and documentaries and has also directed films, videos and plays. He has also written articles and reviews and has worked in street theater and cabaret. He received an Actra Award for Best Radio Drama in 1985.
Following a chance meeting with Robert Massoud at an organic farmer’s market, Michael, an oral historian and documentarist, was intrigued by the idea of Zatoun bringing fair trade olive oil from Palestine. In Zatoun, he saw ordinary people coming together to work for peace and justice, in effect to make their own mark on history outside of the usual actors we think are the only ones who make history. Through his own initiative Michael conducted numerous interviews with a range of people involved in Zatoun, to weave the life story of a project which reflects the story of individuals in North America and a people half a world away. He then offered the documentary to Zatoun for free unlimited use.
In 2011, Michael published a full-length book, Our Way to Fight (to learn more) about grassroots and non-violent resistance in Palestine and there is a chapter about Zatoun. He has a number of other courageous books to his credit.
It is an example of how Zatoun operates in the world, as a vehicle for individuals to bring their unique talents, experience and hopes to help bring compassion and humanity to a world situation that leaves us all – victims, victimizers and witnesses – brutalized and searching for peace with justice.