A SCOTTISH documentary on the reality of life under occupation in Palestine has announced more screenings after selling out at cinemas across the UK.

Freedom to Run, a feature-length documentary by Glaswegian filmmakers Dr Cairsti Russell and Stephen Sheriff, follows the Palestinian running group Right to Movement (RTM) and a group from Glasgow as they train for and run both the Palestine and Edinburgh marathons.

RTM, co-founders of the Palestine Marathon which takes place in Glasgow's twin city Bethlehem, use running to challenge the restrictions on movement people face in Palestine.

The National: Cairsti (middle) and Stephen (right) at a screening of the film at Glasgow UniversityCairsti (middle) and Stephen (right) at a screening of the film at Glasgow University (Image: Freedom to Run)

A normal marathon route is 41 kilometres, but due to the restrictions imposed by Israel it is not possible to move more than 10km without being stopped. To complete the route, runners must run on the same road four times.

The Palestine Marathon route begins at the Nativity Church, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, and continues past the infamous wall and through Aida and Dheisheh refugee camps.

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New dates for the screening of the documentary, which was supported by Glasgow City Council, have been announced for Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness.

Ticket sales from the previous run raised more than £5000 for charity Medical Aid for Palestinians.

The documentary, filmed in Scotland and Palestine in 2018 and 2019, was completed in 2023 and premiered in Glasgow last October.

Since then, it has been seen by more than 600 people at 10 sold-out screenings in Glasgow, York, Newcastle and London.

The documentary was inspired by Russell’s PhD research at the University of Glasgow into media perceptions of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Russell felt compelled to make the film after being confronted with the reality of life in Palestine when she first visited in 2012.

The National: Runners from Right to MovementRunners from Right to Movement (Image: Freedom to Run)

She said the success of the screenings so far demonstrated “people's willingness and appetite to learn about the wider context surrounding Israel and Palestine”, particularly following the October 7 attack.

“My research shows that many people do not understand the reality of life in Palestine and find it difficult to relate to,” she said.

“Since my first trip in 2012 I’ve been a firm believer that if people visit Palestine and see the reality for themselves, they can’t help but be moved by the situation there.

“I hope the film inspires viewers to question stereotypes surrounding ordinary people in Palestine.”

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Co-producer and co-director Sheriff said using the topic of marathon running to tell such a story had allowed the documentary to reach a wider audience which might not have engaged in discussions.

“Communities have formed around screenings, with grassroots groups coming together to stage events,” Sheriff said.

He added: “It’s been fascinating hearing from audience members over the last few months - people are shocked at the degree to which Israel restricts the day-to-day lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.

“From the daily commute to the choice of partner, there is no aspect of life where Palestinians do not have to work around Israeli restrictions.”

The new screenings announced so far are:

  • Edinburgh – January 19, 7pm at Portobello Town Hall. Tickets here.
  • Glasgow – January 21, 4pm at Glasgow Film Theatre. Tickets here.
  • Inverness – February 24, 2pm at Eden Court. Tickets here.

Tickets are available on a pay what you can basis. 

Further screenings are planned, as the filmmakers encouraged people to submit any locations they would like to see the film in by emailing freedomtorunfilm@gmail.com.