8+ Interesting Palestinian Films Coming to Netflix, This Weekend & This Month
Some will make you laugh, and some will make you cry.
Mexican, Korean, French, Nigerian, Indian, and more films from across the world are now more accessible because of the internet and streaming services. Among those reaching a wider audience, thanks to a recent partnership with Netflix, is a large selection of Palestinian films and filmmakers.
According to The National, this came from a collaboration with Front Row Filmed Entertainment, a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) independent film distributor. The distributor curated over 30 films for Netflix, some of which (not on this list) were already available to watch. Several of these encompass “firsts” or highlight small collections of prominent Palestinian creatives.
Many, if not all, of these movies and documentaries will be on Netflix starting October 14, just in time for the weekend. Here are eight I picked out that look the most interesting and present a wide array of storytelling techniques and genres.
Brooklyn-born Soraya goes to collect money from the bank of her late grandfather in Jaffa. Since his exile in 1948, a lot has changed in the port city. The year he left, Jaffa was annexed by the newly formed Israeli government, and the bank is not recognizing Soraya’s claim to her family’s money. Even before getting to the disappointing bank news and subsequent plans, Soraya begins seeing how, as a Palestinian American, she is treated in public spaces by officials—even as a person from Israeli’s biggest ally. When I Saw You is another film by director Annemarie Jacir coming to Netflix.
This is perfect for those not quite ready to take the full leap into foreign films. With limited dialogue, the movie relies on situational and physical comedy to tell the satirical drama of two lovers separated by a checkpoint. Divine Intervention was the first Palestinian film submitted for consideration at the Oscars.
Forced into prison on a terrorism charge by the Israeli government, a young Palestinian woman learns she is pregnant. As she tries to find the best way to deal with the situation, the other inmates are fed up with the cruel conditions and seek to revolt.
Also coming to Netflix is director Mai Masri’s 2001 film Frontiers of Dreams and Fears and 1998 documentary about the Israeli massacre of Beirut’s Palestinian Sabra-Shatila refugee camp, Children of Shatila (1999).
The preceding two films were a lot, so how about an upbeat one? This short movie follows two boys as they seek to find the missing sticker (Maradona’s legs) in a soccer album that will win them a free Atari game. Set in the ’90s, this is about two Palestinian boys obsessed with soccer and their team. Personally, I don’t go LOOKING for films about sports, but as a kid who collected a bunch of stuff turned adult who collects a bunch of stuff, this looks too good to miss.
Back to a serious movie for a second (I’ve gotta spread out the fun ones), we have the 2017 documentary Ghost Hunting. The crew interviews Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and recreates holding cells, etc. to help them to address their trauma. I’m no physiatrist, but it sounds like it would do the opposite? Either way, the trailer is very gripping, and while women and children often get the brunt of coverage about this trauma, generations of men are also affected. This project seeks to help some of these men.
This short dystopian/speculative fiction film follows two scientists from different generations holding a discussion after an environmental disaster overruns Bethlehem. It is probably worth watching twice, as many moments of the film are broken up into two images, representing the division of people, nations, and ideas. In a piece about this movie, The National wrote about Science Fiction in Arab cinema. Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy continue to be important tools for telling the stories of marginalized voices in subversive ways.
Just because a movie is set in a place or time known for destruction and sadness, doesn’t mean everything is going to be serious. Ave Maria follows the lives of Palestinian nuns (who took a vow of silence) interrupted after an Israeli settler family accidentally crashes into the convent wall. While the particular circumstances that cause extra tension may not be relatable to everyone, I’m sure we’ve all been on the giving or receiving end of car troubles with strangers. Also, the film is only 15 minutes long.
This partly found-footage documentary follows Fleifel, every time he returns on holiday to visit his family and friends in the Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon where he grew up. With over 20 years, he constructs a coherent story and exploration of the feeling of hopelessness felt by many Palestinians.
Director (and many other roles, in many cases) Mahdi Fleifel‘s work A Man Returned (2016), A Drowning Man (2017), 3 Logical Exits (2020), and Xenos (2014) are all coming to Netflix, so if, for some reason, A World is Not Ours doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, try one of the others. Some are short narratives, others are feature-length films, and two are documentaries. The main theme tying them together is the experience of Palestinian refugees in bordering countries and in Europe.
Of the several other movies coming to Netflix, some include the love story BONBONÉ (2017), the artist’s tale Mars at Sunrise (2013), and kids who caused so much disruption that the Israeli government tried to take their cows (as told by documentary and animation) in The Wanted 18 (2014).
(featured image: Odeh Films, NOUR Productions, and Incognito Films)
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