When lights in the move theater hall of Gaza City's Islamic University were turned off, senior Hamas leaders, bearded men, veiled women and local celebrities began to watch the first feature film produced by Gaza-ruling Islamic Hamas movement.
The two-hour feature film, with the screenplay written by Gaza Hamas strongman Mahmoud al-Zahar, tells the story of Emad Akel, the commander of Hamas movement's armed wing al-Qassam Brigades, who was killed by Israel in 1993.
The film, which costs 200,000 U.S. dollars and was first shown in Gaza on Friday, will be screened this week at cultural centers all over the Gaza Strip which Hamas seized from rival Fatah movement in June 2007.
Fathi Hamad, a Hamas leader and the interior minister of the deposed Hamas government in Gaza, said after the film's premiere on Friday evening that "It is Hamaswood instead of Hollywood."
"We are trying to make better quality of Islamic art that focuses also on resistance, without showing provocative immoral scenes," he said.
Deposed Prime Minister of Hamas Ismail Haneya was also among the audience to watch the movie shot over 10 months on a production lot located in southern Gaza Strip, which Hamas hopes will one day grow into a media city.
With millions of dollars devoted to build its media empire, Hamas already operates a Gaza-based satellite television station, a radio station and a dozen news websites.
It also owns two daily newspapers published in Gaza but banned in the West Bank where Fatah movement loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway, as well as producing a newsletter and an occasional glossy magazine for its militant wing.
But there are no movie houses in the impoverished Gaza Strip sandwiched between Egypt and Israel as Gaza cinemas were closed down in late 1980s during the first Intifada, or uprising against Israel.
Gaza used to have six major movie houses, but all were shut down because Palestinian activists felt entertainment was inappropriate at a time of struggle. A movie house called al-Nasser was only reopened in 1995 for three months before being burned and destroyed by radical Hamas protestors in Gaza.
The Emad Akel feature film, therefore, will be screened all over Gaza this week mainly at summer camps and cultural centers run by the movement.
The hero of the first Hamas film is the then 22-year-old Emad Akel, who gained fame for his many disguises, including dressing up as a Jewish settler wearing a cipa, or the Jewish skullcap.
In the early 1990s, he was one of the most wanted men by Israel for his alleged role in killing 11 Israeli soldiers, an Israeli civilian and four Palestinian collaborators with Israel.
The film, by building the image of Akel, also talks about how Hamas was founded in 1988 shortly after the first Palestinian Intifada erupted against the Israeli occupation.
Al-Zahar, the screenplay writer of the film, is one of the masterminds who planned the Gaza Strip takeover in mid-June 2007, during which the Fatah-dominated security forces loyal to the Western-backed Abbas were routed. Al-Zahar, a physician, has also written three novels and two screenplays.
"Resistance started from our concept to reject occupation and to reject injustice, and to bless the heroes who are serving the Palestinians and the national interest and who are committed to their religion in order to behave as a symbol," said al-Zahar.
Talking about the film's hero, al-Zahar said "We are in front of a history of a young man, only 22 years old, who sacrificed himself for the sake of Palestine. He sets a good example, and we have many thousands of examples like Emad Akel."
"For this reason we started this movie. We are encouraging others to write, act and play in order to have a culture, the culture of resistance, culture of dignity and culture of moral life," said al-Zahar.
Majed Jendeya, director of the film, said "Emad Akel represents a new military school in the history of Palestinian armed struggle in general. He is a resistance fighter of the top class especially for Hamas. He built the cornerstone for the recent Palestinian armed resistance."
"Through Emad Akel, many high-quality attacks were carried out against Israeli troops, to the extent that the Israeli army became obsessed with his operations. Even (Yitzhak) Rabin (late Israeli premier assassinated in 1995) dreamt of how to end Akel's life," said Jendeya.