Next Wave: Wael Zuaiter, Unknown

The storytelling in Wael Zuaiter: Unknown is exquisite. Compelling and original, it uncovers truth and doubt but focuses on a personal story, because people may not listen to opinion but they do listen to story.

Illustration by Matt Huynh

Jesse Cox makes radio documentaries but wanted to tell his Aunt Janet’s story differently. He sits at a desk and talks. With cinema-screen-size hand-drawn animation, audio recordings, photos, and live music that almost breathes with Jesse, his unpretentious and gentle telling leaves the structure unseen and draws its audience into a story that’s far more complex than its romantic beginnings suggest.

In 1972, Australian painter Janet venn Brown was living in Rome in a tiny flat with an amazing view of the Vatican. When she first arrived in the city, she met Palestinian translator Wael Zuaiter and they had been engaged for seven years on 16 October 1972 when he spent the day on her balcony working on his loved Italian translation of 1001 Nights and later left to go home.

At his door, he was shot and killed.

His was the first assassination by Israel’s Mossad for his connection with the Black September group who held Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and killed them.

Jesse tells Janet’s version of Wael and shares his own research, which included trips to Palestine, Israel and Rome. He wanted to find out the truth. He finds many truths, and if the heart of this story is his love for his Aunt, the guts is the questions that remain.

Wael Zuaiter: Unknown is political and historical but is connected to us and to now by a personal link that ensures its politics and history won’t be forgotten.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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