Last month, Netflix launched a new viewing category called “Palestinian Stories,” including 32 movies. Here are five recommendations for films that, while not necessarily easy to watch, certainly should not be missed.
Documentary, 1 hour and 33 minutes
Raed Andoni’s film won the Best Documentary prize at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. It follows Palestinian prisoners as they recreate their experiences in the Jerusalem detention facility where they were held, the same facility the director was jailed in when he was younger. The prisoners also reenact their arrests and interrogation, bringing repressed trauma to the surface and prompting discussion about the emotional scars they carry.
Drama, 1 hour and 39 minutes
Mai Masri’s 2015 film highlights the Palestinian women in Israeli prisons, through the story of a young teacher, Layal. After being accused of abetting a terror attack, she is sentenced to eight years in prison while pregnant and gives birth to her son while incarcerated. The film also highlights the stories of the other incarcerated women, depicting their unique hardships. Masri has said on several occasions that her film drew inspiration from real-life stories of Palestinian women.
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“Eyes of a Thief”
Drama, 1 hour and 42 minutes
Najwa Najjar’s 2014 film follows a Palestinian man named Tarek following his release from an Israeli prison, after a decade behind bars. Tarek embarks on a search for his lost daughter, all the while hiding a secret from his past and attempting to acclimate to a changing Palestinian society. Najjar once said that the fictional film is based on the true story of a Palestinian who killed seven soldiers and three civilians during the second intifada. “I do not sanctify violence,” she said at a screening before a foreign audience. “The event illustrates the extremes that a person can go to when all of the possibilities drag you into combat.”
Short drama, 15 minutes
Rakan Mayasi’s short film also deals with Palestinian prisoners – this time, with their intimate struggles to have children. The film won Best Short Film at the 2017 Almeria International Short Film Festival. It follows a Palestinian woman whose husband is incarcerated and her efforts to smuggle his sperm out of prison. With a healthy dose of dark humor, the film paints a picture of love and all the hardships that accompany it.
Drama, 1 hour and 23 minutes
The title of Rani Massalha’s 2013 film is a portmanteau composed of the words “giraffe” and “intifada.” The film was inspired by an incident that took place in Qalqilya during the second intifada: During an Israeli offensive, one of the two giraffes at the local zoo was killed. The film follows a veterinarian, Yassin, and his son Ziad as they embark on a surreal quest to find another giraffe to replace the remaining female’s lost mate.
Here are a few bonus recommendations for short films:
“Maradona’s Legs” (2019): A pair of Palestinian children are collecting stickers for their 1990 World Cup album. They need one last sticker to win the prize.
Directed by Firas Khoury, 23 minutes.
“Ave Maria” (2015): When their car breaks down at a remote convent, a family of Israeli settlers have a comic encounter with the local nuns, providing a glimpse into the complexity of life in the West Bank.
Directed by Basil Khalil, 14 minutes.
“In Vitro” (2019): Set in Bethlehem in the aftermath of an ecological disaster, this short black-and-white film examines issues of memory and identity.
Directed by Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, 27 minutes.