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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

6 Palestinian films you need to watch


For decades, Palestinian filmmakers have shared the struggle of their people through use of cameras. 

The arts industry yields a great power that enables individuals from across the globe to witness history in the making.

From feature films to short documentaries, viewers are able to see the lives of strangers, learn from stories they’ve yet to hear and potentially shift their perspective of complex topics.

With renewed Israeli aggression against Palestinians, more and more people are searching for resources to understand how the occupation began. However, with Israel adamant on removing and censoring pro-Palestine content in a bid to alter the narrative, Palestinian filmmakers are keen on sharing their work.

We have compiled a list of just a handful of Palestinian films that touch on the occupation, the struggle and the resistance.

‘200 Meters’

Directed by Ameen Nayfeh and produced by May Odeh, “200 Meters” reflects the restraints imposed on the movement of Palestinians living under occupation, with particular focus on the the 200 meter separation wall.

The film follows the arduous journey of Mustafa, a father who struggles to see his wife Salwa and their kids. This then intensifies when Mustafa’s son is hospitalised on the other side of the wall, leaving him with only one choice: to get in a vehicle with complete strangers in a bid to get through checkpoints.

Though fictional, the main character was based off of Nayfeh’s personal experience in Palestine, where he was once refused entry at an Israeli checkpoint when his grandfather died. Similarly, he could not see his dying grandmother without the eight-hour Israeli permit.

‘Gaza Mon Amour’

Based in the besieged strip, “Gaza Mon Amour” shows that love exists despite the harrowing circumstances in the Palestinian city. It follows the story of 60-year-old fisherman Issa who is is secretly in love with Siham, a dressmaker working at the same market.

After finally gathering the courage to propose to Siham, he discovers a phallic sculpture of the Greek god Apollo in his fishing net and decides to hide it at home, with hopes that it would bring him good luck.

However, the statue then leads to several comical incidents that are juxtaposed with the reality of life under occupation. The film is directed by Palestinian twins Tarzan Nasser and Arab Nasser.

‘The Present’

As reflected in the title, “The Present” follows the journey of a father, Yusef, and his young daughter who are on a mission to buy his wife a gift for their wedding anniversary.

Like many Palestinians in the West Bank, he struggles to pass through one of Israel’s many checkpoints on the way to the store, where he hopes to buy some groceries and the gift – a refrigerator.

Despite the presence of his daughter, occupation forces fail to show compassion towards the father and refuse him entry.

Read also: ‘Cinema is a Palestinian’s only weapon’: A review of Ajyal’s Audience Award winner, ‘200 Meters’

The journey, which in any other scenario around the world would typically take no longer than an hour, ends up taking much longer for Yusef. He is kept their all day for mere intimidation purposes and even put behind bars while his daughter watches on.

Directed by Farah Nabulsi, the Oscar-nominated film shares the inhumane occupation’s ability to disrupt the daily life of Palestinians. The film is also available on Netflix.

‘Jenin, Jenin’

Directed by Mohammed Bakri, “Jenin, Jenin” is a documentary that focuses on the deadly 2002 Battle of Jenin, which took place in a refugee camp in the West Bank area.

At the time, Israeli forces stormed the camp on accusations that it was the launch site of attacks against Tel Aviv.

The film combines the harrowing stories of survivors of the massacre, offering a first-hand account of Israel’s war crimes. Due to its ability to expose Israel and as part of the occupation’s effort to shift all narratives , the film was banned by the Lod district court.

The ruling came following a libel lawsuit filed against Bakri by Israeli soldier Nissim Magnaji, who participated in Operation Defensive Shield during 2002.

The film is available on Vimeo for free.

‘3000 Nights’

Directed by Mai Masri, “3000 Nights” follows the story of Layal, who was arrested based on false accusations that included engaging in terrorist activity.

Soon enough, Layal discovers that she is pregnant while locked behind bars, where she is subjected to ill and harsh treatment by Israeli forces.

Through the film, Masri is able to show the unjust treatment of Palestinians in comparison to Israelis.

The film can be streamed on Vimeo.

‘Between Heaven and Earth’

“Between Heaven and Earth” follows the story of Salma, a Palestinian from Nazareth, who divorces her husband Tamer, the son of a famous intellectual revolutionary who was killed in Beirut.

The Palestinian couple split up after a five-year marriage but their divorce cannot be completed without filing the required documents.

Due to the many limitations of movement, Tamer is given a three-day permit to cross Israeli checkpoints to file for divorce in the courts of Nazareth.

At the courthouse, Tamer and Salma discover his father’s romantic relationship with an Iraqi Jew in the 1950s, tapping into the couples’ curiosity.

As the three-day deadline looms, the couple go on a mission to find his father’s lover to obtain the needed documents.

The film is directed by Najwa Najjar.

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