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ArtsFilm & TV

Six Must-Watch Movies on Palestine

A compilation of must-see movies, documentaries and short films on the realities of life in Palestine.

A compilation of must-see movies, documentaries and short films on the realities of life in Palestine.

Farha

Farha Movie Review: Through the eyes and ears of 'FARHA' - Destination KSA

Farha is a powerful and emotionally charged film available on Netflix, set against the backdrop of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, a pivotal event in Middle Eastern history. The story unfolds through the eyes of Farha, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, bringing a deeply personal and human perspective to the historical conflict.

The film begins by showcasing Farha’s life in her small village, where her daily routines and aspirations are depicted. She is a bright and curious girl, aspiring for an education and a life beyond the traditional roles expected of her. This aspiration is in stark contrast with her father’s plans, who intends to arrange her marriage, a common practice in her culture at the time.

As the war intensifies, Farha’s village becomes engulfed in the conflict. The film vividly portrays the transformation of her once peaceful village into a war zone, with scenes of violence, displacement, and upheaval. In the midst of this chaos, Farha’s character is tested in profound ways. Her journey of resilience and survival is the central focus of the film.

One of the film’s most poignant elements is its exploration of loss of innocence. Farha, initially sheltered from the harsh realities of the world, is suddenly confronted with the brutality of war. Her experiences reflect the broader tragedy faced by civilians caught in conflict zones.

The film also delves into the historical context of the Arab-Israeli War, providing audiences with insights into the complexities and tragedies of this period. The personal story of Farha serves as a window into the larger narrative of displacement and struggle experienced by many during this time.

Overall, Farha is a film that combines historical drama with a deeply personal coming-of-age story. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity and a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of war on individuals and communities.

The Present

The Present: A tragic exposé of everyday Israeli occupation

The Present is a film that delves into the daily struggles and realities faced by Palestinians living under occupation. The story is centered around a Palestinian father named Yusef and his young daughter, Yasmine. The narrative unfolds as they embark on a seemingly simple yet profoundly challenging task: buying a wedding anniversary gift for Yusef’s wife.

The film is set in the West Bank and captures the complexities and frustrations of life under occupation through the lens of this everyday errand. Yusef and Yasmine’s journey becomes an odyssey filled with obstacles, primarily due to the numerous checkpoints they must navigate. These checkpoints, operated by Israeli soldiers, become symbolic of the larger political and social barriers faced by Palestinians.

As Yusef and Yasmine travel, the film showcases the warmth of their father-daughter relationship, juxtaposed with the harsh realities of the occupation. Their interactions are filled with love, humor, and resilience, offering a humanizing glimpse into the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

One of the most striking aspects of The Present is its portrayal of the mundane made extraordinary due to the circumstances. Simple tasks like traveling and shopping, which would be straightforward in other contexts, are laden with tension and uncertainty. This not only reflects the physical barriers but also the psychological impact on those living under such conditions.

The film doesn’t shy away from showing the daily indignities and human rights issues faced by Palestinians. It touches on themes of dignity, freedom, and the human desire for normalcy amidst conflict. The checkpoints, in particular, are shown as places of power dynamics and confrontation, highlighting the broader struggle for Palestinian autonomy and rights.

Overall, The Present is a deeply moving film that offers a window into the Palestinian experience under occupation. It’s a story about perseverance, the bond between a father and daughter, and the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity. The film serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by Palestinians and the need for understanding and empathy in addressing these complex issues.

3000 Nights

3000 Nights | Institute for Palestine Studies

3000 Nights is a compelling and intense film that explores the experience of a young Palestinian woman named Layal. Set in the 1980s, the story unfolds as Layal is unjustly accused and imprisoned in an Israeli jail for a crime she did not commit. The narrative focuses on her life in prison, offering a unique and harrowing perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The film begins with Layal’s arrest and subsequent sentencing, which disrupts her life as a newlywed schoolteacher. Her initial time in prison is marked by shock and despair, as she navigates the challenging and often brutal conditions of incarceration. However, Layal’s character evolves remarkably throughout the film, showcasing her resilience and determination.

One of the central themes of 3000 Nights is the camaraderie and solidarity among the female prisoners. Layal finds herself in a cell with both Palestinian and Israeli women, leading to complex dynamics and relationships. These interactions provide a microcosm of the larger political conflict, yet they also reveal the shared humanity and struggles of the women.

A significant plot point arises when Layal discovers she is pregnant while in prison. The decision to keep her baby and give birth in prison conditions adds an intense emotional layer to the film. This aspect of the story highlights issues of motherhood, hope, and survival under extreme circumstances.

The film also delves into the psychological impact of imprisonment. Layal’s journey is not just a physical struggle but also an emotional and mental battle. The film portrays the various coping mechanisms and forms of resistance that the prisoners employ, from forming close-knit bonds to engaging in overt acts of defiance against the prison authorities.

Visually, 3000 Nights uses a stark and gritty aesthetic to convey the oppressive atmosphere of the prison. The cinematography captures the claustrophobic environment and the constant tension that pervades Layal’s life.

Through its narrative, 3000 Nights offers a critical look at the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on individuals, particularly on women. It sheds light on the human rights issues within the context of imprisonment and occupation. The film is a compelling exploration of resilience, solidarity, and the struggle for justice and dignity in the face of overwhelming odds.

200 Meters

200 Meters (2020) | Trailer | Ameen Nayfeh - YouTube

200 Meters is a gripping and emotionally resonant film that centers around the story of Mustafa, a Palestinian construction worker, and his family. The title refers to the literal distance that separates Mustafa from his wife and children; they live just 200 meters away on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, a separation wall that divides Palestinian territories from Israel.

The narrative is driven by a sudden and urgent crisis: Mustafa’s son is involved in an accident and is hospitalized, necessitating Mustafa’s immediate crossing from his side of the barrier to where his family lives. However, what seems like a short journey is complicated by the harsh realities of the geopolitical landscape. Mustafa, who lacks the proper permit to cross through the checkpoint legally, is forced to find an alternative way to reach his son.

The film evolves into a road movie of sorts, with Mustafa joining a group of people, each with their own reasons for needing to cross the barrier illegally. This journey brings a series of harrowing experiences, as they must navigate not just the physical barriers, but also the dangers posed by soldiers and the natural landscape. These scenes are tense and fraught with danger, effectively conveying the desperation and risks faced by those trying to cross.

At its core, 200 Meters is a human story that puts a personal face on the larger political conflict. Mustafa’s struggle is emblematic of the daily challenges faced by many Palestinians living under occupation and the impact of the separation barrier on ordinary lives. The film powerfully portrays the emotional and physical toll of these circumstances, especially the strain on family relationships.

Director Ameen Nayfeh, through this film, seeks to highlight the absurdity and tragedy of a situation where a mere 200 meters becomes an insurmountable distance due to political borders. The film is not just a commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also a universal story about the lengths to which a person will go for their family.

The cinematography in 200 Meters plays a significant role in the storytelling, capturing the stark contrasts between the landscapes on either side of the wall and the tension-filled journey of the group. This visual storytelling, combined with strong performances, especially by the actor playing Mustafa, adds depth and authenticity to the film.

Born in Gaza

Prime Video: Born in Gaza

Born in Gaza is a deeply affecting documentary that provides a raw and unfiltered look into the lives of children living in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory frequently engulfed in conflict. The film is set against the backdrop of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge, offering a ground-level view of the impact of war on the youngest and most vulnerable.

The documentary follows the lives of ten children, each with their unique experiences and perspectives. These children, ranging in age from a few years old to teenagers, share their daily lives, fears, and dreams with the viewer. The narrative is largely driven by their voices, providing an intimate and personal look at the realities of growing up in a war zone.

Born in Gaza does not shy away from the harsh realities of war. It shows the devastation wrought by the conflict, including bombed buildings, injured civilians, and the omnipresent sounds of warfare. The film captures the physical and emotional scars left on these children, many of whom have lost family members, homes, and a sense of security.

Despite the dire circumstances, the documentary also highlights the resilience and adaptability of the children. They find moments of joy, play, and normalcy, even amidst chaos. This resilience is a central theme of the film, showcasing the strength and spirit of the children in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The film also provides context to the broader political situation in Gaza, though its primary focus remains on the personal stories of the children. The documentary gives a face and a voice to the often abstract news reports about the conflict, making the humanitarian crisis more relatable and urgent to viewers who might be far removed from these realities.

The cinematography in Born in Gaza plays a crucial role in conveying the film’s message. The camera work is often up close and personal, capturing the emotions, expressions, and environment of the children in a way that is both intimate and impactful. The visual storytelling is complemented by the children’s narratives, which are both heartrending and insightful.

Omar

Omar - Official Trailer - YouTube

Omar is a gripping and intense film that delves into the complexities of love, betrayal, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The story centers on Omar, a young Palestinian baker, who regularly climbs the West Bank barrier to visit his girlfriend Nadia. This act, while seemingly simple, is fraught with danger and is a physical representation of the barriers—both literal and metaphorical—that divide the region.

The film takes a dramatic turn when Omar becomes entangled in the conflict. After he and his childhood friends carry out an act of resistance against the Israeli military, Omar is captured and coerced by Israeli agents into working as an informant. This sets off a chain of events that deeply impacts Omar’s relationships and his sense of identity.

A central theme of the film is the moral ambiguity and the difficult choices faced by individuals living under occupation. Omar is torn between his loyalty to his friends, his love for Nadia, and his desperate desire for freedom. This internal conflict is skillfully portrayed, highlighting the psychological toll of living in a constant state of tension and distrust.

The love story between Omar and Nadia adds another layer to the film, offering a glimpse of the personal lives and dreams that persist amidst the conflict. Their relationship is tender yet strained by the political and social pressures surrounding them. This subplot is a powerful reminder of how ordinary lives and aspirations are affected by larger political struggles.

Omar is notable for its realistic portrayal of life in the occupied Palestinian territories. The film does not shy away from showing the daily challenges, the confrontations at checkpoints, and the ever-present sense of surveillance and suspicion that characterizes life under occupation.

The film’s cinematography effectively captures the stark landscapes and the tense atmosphere of the West Bank. The physical barrier, which Omar must traverse, is a constant presence in the film, symbolizing the larger divisions and conflicts that the characters navigate.

Director Hany Abu-Assad, through Omar, offers a nuanced and compelling look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, eschewing simple moral binaries to explore the gray areas and the human costs of the conflict. The film is a powerful exploration of loyalty, love, and the harsh realities of life under occupation, providing a window into a world where personal and political struggles are inextricably linked.

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