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5 Palestinian Films to Watch

by | Dec 5, 2023 | Film Review, News, Non-Fiction, Review

Editor’s Note: One of the best ways you can support Palestine is by educating yourself for your own sake, and for the sake of Palestinian lives, culture, and keeping history alive. Supporting Palestinian creatives and content about culture, creativity, and personal and political experiences is an important way to elevate their voices and share their stories. This can include long and short form books, reading the news, and watching Palestinian films and documentaries.

In the following review, Rowan M. offers her experience as a girl with a Jewish background who took the initiative to personally learn about what is going on in Palestine. A special thank you to this contributor for her research, and collaborating with the New Absurdist to share her thoughts on these Palestinian films and documentaries.

Rowan M:

While watching these films, I felt both enraged and helpless seeing the way people of Gaza and Palestine were being treated. Each of these films gave me a new perspective and allowed me to learn more about a history that our own educational system has failed to teach us. Much of the content made my stomach turn with sadness, some of the more graphic moments making me cry because of how frustrated I felt. All I could think was, “If I feel like this just WATCHING these events, I can only imagine what it’s like for those facing it first hand”. Films like these remind me how much I still have left to learn about the world.

These films do not have “happy endings”, but rather honest depictions of real life. Each one of these films reminded me how important it is for us, as human beings, to have enough empathy to learn about and help those who are facing such intense oppression. And while I don’t have much to my own name, I will continue to do what I can in order to support Palestine and call for a ceasefire to the ongoing genocide we are witnessing. As the saying goes, “You don’t need to be Palestinian or Muslim to support this fight, you just need to be human”, and we need a lot more humanity now than ever before.

The five films Rowan watched are:

  1. Farha
  2. Born in Gaza
  3. Omar
  4. The Present
  5. Habibi

Film Synopsis and Review: (Spoiler Alerts!) 

  1. Farha: Based on a true story, this film focuses on a young Palestinian girl during the year 1948, who dreams of expanding her education and pursuing schooling in the city rather than get married. However, just as her father is finally allowing her to follow these dreams, it all comes crashing down. Their village is suddenly attacked, bombs flooding the area. Rather than running to escape with her friend, Farha stays behind to try and help her father. She ends up being locked away in a pantry in order to remain safe. Her father promises to come back for her, leaving her trapped for days, running out of food, water, and hope. We also see glimpses of how the IDF soldiers treated her community. In one graphic scene a family attempting to hide is killed, and their newborn son left to lay on the ground due to the IDF soldier not having the heart to crush the baby (since they didn’t wish to “waste a bullet”). The film ends with Farha finally escaping the pantry, seeing both the dead child, and the now abandoned area she once called home. As she leaves, she can only wonder where her father is, though she never saw him again after these events. She lived on to tell her story.

  2. Born in Gaza: This documentary focuses on the violence of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its effects on the children of Gaza. It follows the story of about ten children who describe what their daily life is like after the horror of the war during the summer of 2014. It details memories they have about specific attacks and bombings, and reflects the trauma they face in regards to it all, including how they are unable to receive much help or mental support.

  3. Omar: This film explores the lives of three close friends and what it is like for them as freedom fighters living under the control of the Israeli military. After another incident facing violent mistreatment, the three carry out a dangerous mission to attack the IDF in order to support the resistance, killing one of the soldiers in the process. Omar is eventually arrested and faces brutal torture by the IDF. He ends up agreeing to be an informant for them to avoid remaining in jail,  (and also for the sake of his sweetheart). However, he hides his true motives and remains loyal to his alliances, leading to an intense and in depth look at the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

  4. The Present: A short film about a father and daughter in the Palestinian enclaves of the Israeli-occupied West Bank trying to buy a wedding anniversary gift for the mom of the family. This story explores the difficult life Palestinians face within the West Bank, showing that what would be the most simplest things for some is not for them. It includes the absurd challenges they face as well, trying to navigate a system that is built against them as they do their best to survive.

  5. Habibi: This film depicts a modern retelling of a forbidden love story between 7th-century poet Qays ibn al-Mulawwah and his one and only Layla, who meet each other while studying at school. It shows a glimpse into stereotypical roles within their home lives, and the expectations they face as they try to navigate an already deadly world around them. We see how they are mistreated by others, and what happens when they try to run away and together, being harmed by IDF soldiers in the process.

All five films are available to stream on Netflix (US) 

Further watch list (and credit for cover image): Palestine Film Institute

Decolonize Palestine: Reading List

Literary Hub: 40 Books to Understand Palestine

This Is Not A Watermelon by The New Absurdist