Netflix Buys Israeli Film 'Junction 48,' Bringing Palestinian Hip-hop to U.S. Screens

Film tells the story of two Arab musicians stuck between Jewish oppression and Arab conservatism.

A scene from Udi Aloni's "Junction 48" shows Samar Qupty as Manar, left, and Tamer Nafar as Kareem.
A scene from Udi Aloni's "Junction 48" starring Samar Qupty, left, and Tamer Nafar. Amnon Zalaita, AP

Netflix has acquired the broadcasting rights to the award-winning Israeli movie “Junction 48,” and will start streaming it worldwide this summer.

The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2016, where it won an audience award. Two months later, it nabbed the Best International Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

”Junction 48” is about two young lovers – a young singer named Manar (played by Samar Qupty) and a hip-hop artist (played by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar) – trying to make their way in the Israeli-Arab city of Lod.

Through their love and music, they try to fight on two parallel fronts: their external oppression by Jewish Israeli society; and internal pressures of conservative forces within the Arab community in Lod, which suffers from poverty and crime.

Nafar cowrote the script together with Israeli filmmaker Oren Moverman. It received positive U.S. reviews, with The New York Times making it a critics' choice. Its soundtrack has been purchased for distribution by U.S. company The Orchard, which is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.

Actress Salwa Sakkara, actor Tamer Nafar, director and producer Udi Aloni and actress Samar Qupty pose at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, February 13, 2016.
Axel Schmidt, AP

“I am proud that in parallel with the movie’s artistic success in the world, it serves as an oppositional political tool against the Israeli government,” said director Udi Aloni.

“The thought police and laws that silence require us to make political statements, lest we become collaborators. In my opinion, today we should not separate between politics and art. They function as a single unit," he added. "Anybody separating them does it to justify bad art, or to justify bad politics.”

The movie will be released in France later this month.

The film caused some controversy when it was released in Israel last May, with tensions boiling over at the Israeli Film Academy Awards (the Ophirs) in September (when the film won two awards, including best music).

During the event, Jewish performer Yossi Zabari joined Nafar in a presentation that included a short excerpt from a poem by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. In response, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev left the auditorium.

When she returned later to present the Best Film award, she lashed out at the industry, declaring: “Israeli cinema will not be a closed club.”

Jewish performer Yossi Zabari and Tamer Nafar, the Arab star of the Israeli film "Junction 48," raise their fist in a sign of protest during Ophir Awards. September 22, 2016.
Ilan Assayag