Palestinian cinema to international success

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Door: Jan Schnerr - Laatst aangepast op: 18 januari 2021

with suggestions and advice from Margot Heijnsbroek

The rise of Palestinian cinema is a spectacular story. Disappeared during World War II, reborn as a revolutionary film with primitive means by and for a displaced and defeated people in the 1960s and 1970s, and from the mid-1980s onward, making a steady advance. In the thirty-plus years since then, a rich film production has emerged, not only in terms of volume. This large production and the variety within it is amazing: fiction, documentaries, longer feature films, short impressions sometimes shot in the midst of brutal violence, and with a wide range of themes and tone: rap, identity, war, life in a foreign land and love. A Palestinian film industry has gradually emerged but a handicap is that – certainly as far as many Palestinian directors are concerned – there are no or few domestic funding channels. This latter fact leads to an intertwining of Palestinian, European and American funding of film productions. The fact that, for example, the internationally successful film Omar by Dutchman Hany Abu-Assad was 95% Palestinian funded is a peculiarity. In addition, there is also the problem of daily violence and suppression of cultural expressions in the occupied territories.

Thus, this film culture has a strong international character and at the same time is undeniably “Palestinian. A positive aspect for Palestinian film is that, regardless of the funding problems mentioned above, a Palestinian film infrastructure is emerging. Training courses and other facilities are constantly being added, such as the Qattan Foundation and the Palestine Film Institute, which are also supported by European sponsors from Germany and France, among others. An important function are Western organizations that (also) support filmmakers from the regions of Asia and Africa. Example: IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) which offers itself with IDFA Forum as ‘a premium market to find partners and expand your international network, decision makers, producers, and other documentary stakeholders’.

National identity, exile culture, the search by protagonists for balance between the personal and the political are never far away in Palestinian film. The need to remain visible as a people amidst forces that deny that this people even exists. These forces of push and pull are apparently a fertile source of inspiration for filmmakers, actors and scriptwriters. It led to films like It must be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, 2019), 5 Broken Cameras (Emad Bunat & Guy Davidi), Paradis Now (Hany Abu-Assad), Noce and Galilée/Wedding in Galilee (Michel Khleifi), When I Saw You (Annemarie Jacir) and Gaza mon Amour, (Tarzan Nasser & Arab Nasser).

Click on ‘selection of films’ and you will find more recommendations. Modern films and documentaries but also films of historical interest. Search on and you will find a new Dutch site (in English) where 1000 Palestinian films can be found, with explanations and a link to the ‘trailer’ for a quick orientation. This site is constantly updated with newly released films and docu’s.

Tags:  english