26 Must-See Documentaries and Films About Palestine | Savoir Flair
TV & Film
26 Must-See Documentaries and Films About Palestine
article @MARIAM.AJAMI
by Jana Shakhashir 8-minute read November 14, 2023

Supporting Palestinian liberation starts with understanding the experiences of Palestinians and the history of the occupation.

article @MARIAM.AJAMI

As the heart-wrenching images and news reports flood in from Gaza, many around the world are feeling a range of emotions from anger to despair and helplessness. Now, more than ever, it's essential to understand the history and complexities of the Palestinian plight. It isn’t the responsibility of your Palestinian friends to educate you about the occupation. Part of being an ally is doing the work yourself without emotionally burdening Palestinians to recount their trauma. With the plethora of resources available online and the level of awareness on social media, being uninformed is no longer an excuse.

As Israel intensifies its assault on Gaza, cutting off essential utilities and destroying borders, the urgency to be informed and stand in solidarity has never been more significant. It's not just about reacting to the current events, but understanding the decades of oppression, resistance, and resilience that have led to this point. Whether you've been involved in Palestinian rights for years or are just coming to grips with the situation, these 26 documentaries and films will provide essential context to the ongoing struggle and deepen your comprehension of the Palestinian experience.

article article

I think 

DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS 

need as much 

PROTECTION 

as possible under the 

JOURNALIST'S PRIVILEGE

How else is the 

PUBLIC 

to know what is going on?

Robert Redford
1

5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of protests in Bil'in, Ramallah, a West Bank village affected by the Israeli West Bank barrier. The documentary was shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son and chronicles his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army.

2

Jenin, Jenin

Jenin, Jenin is directed by Mohammed Bakri, a prominent Palestinian actor. In order to portray what Bakri calls "the Palestinian truth" about the Jenin Invasion, witnesses and survivors talk about the 2002 attack by the Israeli army on Palestinian refugee camp Jenin.

3

Huda's Salon

In the gripping narrative of Huda's Salon, a Palestinian film by the acclaimed director Hany Abu-Assad, the audience is plunged into the heart of Bethlehem's underbelly, where beauty and betrayal intertwine in a salon that serves as more than just a place for a haircut and gossip. The salon, run by the eponymous Huda, is a façade for a darker reality, where women's vulnerabilities are exploited for espionage in a tangled web of political intrigue.

Huda's Salon is available to stream on OSN+.

4

Born in Gaza

Filmed during the 2014 siege of Gaza, which left 507 children dead and 3,598 wounded, Born in Gaza follows the lives of 10 young children living on the strip, examining the physical and psychological effects of growing up in a war zone. This documentary focuses on the devastating violence of the Israeli occupation and its effects on the children of Gaza, going beyond news coverage of the events and allowing the children to tell their stories.

5

Gaza Fights for Freedom

This documentary shows you Gaza’s protest movement as you’ve never seen before. Filmed during the height of the Great March of Return protests, it features exclusive footage of demonstrations that explain the history never acknowledged by mass media. At its core, Gaza Fights For Freedom is a thorough indictment of the Israeli military for war crimes and a stunning cinematic portrayal of Palestinians' heroic resistance.

6

Ghost Hunting

Director Raed Andoni arranges for a replica of an Israeli detention center's rooms and cells to be built to scale inside a hall — under close supervision from former inmates and based on their memories. In this realistic setting, the men subsequently re-enact their interrogations, discuss details about the prison, and express the humiliation they experienced during their detention.  Their reconstruction brings long-repressed emotions and trauma to the fore. 

7

Fertile Memory

In the first full-length film to be shot within the disputed Palestinian West Bank “Green Line,” director Michel Khleifi crafts a portrait of two Palestinian women whose individual struggles both define and transcend the politics that have torn apart their homes and their lives. Grandmother Romia fights an unending legal battle with the Zionist authorities who confiscated her ancestral land soon after the Israeli occupation in 1947 and Sahar, a divorced novelist and young mother living in the West Bank, struggles to maintain a modern role for herself within her increasingly intolerant occupation community.

8

200 Meters

200 Meters, a poignant and evocative Palestinian film directed by Ameen Nayfeh, is a heart-wrenching narrative that beautifully captures the essence of separation and the indefatigable human spirit. The film is set against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation, focusing on a simple yet profound premise: a Palestinian family divided by a mere 200 meters and an insurmountable wall.

The protagonist, Mustafa, portrayed with a raw and compelling authenticity, is a father living in the West Bank, while his wife and children reside on the other side of the Israeli separation barrier. This physical divide, a mere 200 meters, becomes a vast chasm filled with bureaucratic hurdles and the pain of separation. Nayfeh's directorial brilliance shines through in the way he turns this simple journey into a metaphor for the broader struggles faced by countless families in the region.

This film is available to stream on OSN+.

9

Mayor

A look at the life of Musa Hadid, the charismatic mayor of Palestinian city Ramallah who aspires to lead the city into the future, Mayor depicts one politician’s quest to preserve dignity in the midst of bureaucracy. In one of the very few moments where Hadid addresses the camera directly, he wonders if Americans care at all about Palestine and its citizens being murdered and terrorized daily.

10

Gaza Mon Amor

Gaza Mon Amour, a film co-directed by Arab and Tarzan Nasser, is a refreshingly unique, heartwarming tale set in the often-misrepresented Gaza Strip. This film takes a delightful turn from the usual narratives of conflict, focusing instead on a tender love story amidst the challenges of daily life in Gaza. What sets Gaza Mon Amour apart is its ability to infuse humor and humanity into a setting often depicted solely through the lens of despair. The Nasser brothers have masterfully crafted a narrative that is not just a love story but a story of hope, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the Palestinian people. It's a film that challenges stereotypes, offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of Gazans, filled with dreams, desires, and the universal pursuit of happiness. 

This film is available to stream on OSN+.

11

The Gatekeepers

Oscar-nominated The Gatekeepers is a 2012 internationally co-produced documentary film that tells the story of the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet (known in Hebrew as 'Shabak'), from the perspective of six of its former heads. The film combines in-depth interviews, archival footage, and computer animation to recount the role that the group played in Israel’s security from the Six-Day War to the present.

12

Gaza

Gaza focuses on everyday life in the Middle East’s ‘open prison’. It’s a striking piece of film-making, a beautiful portrait of everyday Gazan citizens leading meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial violent oppression.

13

Walled Off

Produced by Anwar Hadid, Roger Waters, Kweku Mandela, and Immortal Technique, and directed by Vin Arfuso, Walled Off delves deep into the confines of the Walled Off Hotel, an establishment set up by the enigmatic artist, Banksy, in Bethlehem. The documentary paints an intimate portrayal of the daily challenges faced by Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and challenges to the predominant media discourse about the occupation, and an illuminating revelation of the truths of life under military control.

14

Israelism

Israelism delves into the deeply rooted beliefs of two American Jews who were brought up to ardently support Israel. Their worlds are upended when they confront Israel's treatment of Palestinians firsthand. Through poignant interviews with luminaries like Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, this new documentary unravels a generational divide in the Jewish-American community's perception of Zionism.

15

Between Heaven and Earth


Between Heaven and Earth is a cinematic exploration of love, identity, and the complexities of life in the midst of political turmoil. Directed by the talented Palestinian filmmaker Najwa Najjar, this film delves deep into the intimate story of a Palestinian couple, Tamer and Salma, whose marriage is on the brink of collapse. Their journey through divorce proceedings takes an unexpected turn, unraveling secrets and histories that challenge their perceptions of each other and their families' pasts.

Set against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation, the narrative weaves through the labyrinth of legal and bureaucratic challenges faced by the couple, highlighting the absurdities and heartaches of daily life under occupation. Tamer's journey to retrieve his father's police record, a requirement for the divorce, becomes a poignant quest for identity and understanding, as he discovers unsettling truths about his father's past. For those looking for a film that combines emotional depth with political relevance, this one is a must-watch.

This film is available to stream on OSN+.

article article

CINEMA 

is not only about making people 

DREAM

It's about 

CHANGING 

things and making people 

THINK.

Nadine Labaki
1

The Present

The Present tells the story of Yusef and his young daughter setting out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift on his wedding anniversary. However, the task is made almost impossible by Israeli soldiers, showing the day-to-day challenges and degradation endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated short film, directed by Farah Nabulsi, provides a first-hand account of the humiliation and suffering Palestinians face every day at Israeli checkpoints.

2

Paradise Now

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, this Oscar-nominated film follows two Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for a strike on Tel Aviv and focuses on their last days together. Oppressed by the occupation, Said and Khaled have limited options. The film aims to explain why two seemingly ordinary men would be willing to sacrifice their lives in an act of terrorism.

3

Wedding in Galilee

This first-ever feature about Palestinians by a Palestinian, Michel Khleifi, is a beautiful and haunting tale about the wedding of a young couple in a Palestinian village in Galilee. The elder of the village seeks and is granted permission to hold a traditional wedding for his son on one condition: that the Israeli military governor and his staff be guests of honor at the ceremony.

4

Omar

In another Oscar-nominated Hany Abu-Assad film, Omar depicts a young Palestinian freedom fighter who agrees to work as an informant after he’s tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier’s killing. Like with Paradise Now, Abu-Assad finds a perfect balance between delicate drama and taut thriller in this well-constructed film. 

5

Chronicle of a Disappearance

In the 1996 drama film, Palestinian director and actor Elia Suleiman documents the loss of national identity in Israel's Arab population, told through a series of vignettes centered in and around Jerusalem. Suleiman uses a non-linear, disruptive, and repetitive pattern to emphasize the fragmented identity of Palestine.

6

Divine Intervention

Suleiman does it again, starring in his film Divine Intervention, where his character E.S. cares for his ailing father in Jerusalem whilst conducting an affair with a Palestinian woman living in Ramallah. Barred from moving between the two cities, the lovers are forced to share their intimate moments in the shadow of an Israeli army checkpoint. It is a surreal black comedy, almost without dialogue, about Palestinians under Israeli occupation. 

7

Like Twenty Impossibles

Like Twenty Impossibles was the first-ever Palestinian short film to be shown at the Cannes International Film Festival. It has won over 15 awards and is hailed as the seminal work of its critically acclaimed director, Annemarie Jacir. The film tracks the journey of a fictional Palestinian film crew as they attempt to gather footage from across the country. Juxtaposing shots depicting the serenity of the Palestinian landscape with innumerable examples of military presence, Like Twenty Impossibles gets to the very core of the harsh and very mundane reality of occupation.

8

When I Saw You

Jacir tells another story about the reality of life as a Palestinian in When I Saw You. Tarek, 11, has to flee from Palestine to Jordan with thousands of other refugees. Having been separated from his father, Tarek and his mother are placed in “temporary” camps. With difficulties adjusting to life there and a longing to be reunited with his father, he searches for a way out.

9

The Time That Remains

The Time That Remains is an examination of the creation of the state of Israel from 1948 through to the present day. Elia Suleiman yet again takes a deeply personal look at Palestinian/Israeli relations in this autobiographical look at the time when Israel became an official state, and Palestinians found themselves a minority.

10

Lemon Tree

In Lemon Tree, Salma, a widow from a Palestinian village played by Hiam Abbass, makes a meager living from her lemon grove. However, when Israeli Defense Minister Navon moves in across the way, his security guards demand she remove the trees, which could shelter terrorists. Refusing to bow down, she engages lawyer Ziad Daud to take her case to the Supreme Court, which brings international attention.

11

Tale of the Three Jewels

A mixture of realism and allegory set against the backdrop of the Palestinian uprising in Gaza, Tale of the Three Jewels is the story of Youssef, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy living a life of hardship in the Gaza Strip with his mother and brother while his father is incarcerated by Israeli forces. When he meets gypsy girl Aida and falls for her, she asks him to find three jewels missing from a necklace to win her heart.

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