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Five (and a Half) Movies About Palestine
From Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers, glimpses of life, love, and survival in a prostrate land.
Regardless of whether you stand with Israel, support a free Palestine, yearn for a two-state solution, or just believe in the right of men, women, and children to not be massacred where they live, these movies — all available on VOD — put faces and feelings to a place too few Americans understand.
“5 Broken Cameras” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2, 2011, streaming on Kanopy and Plex, for rent on Kino Now) – A devastating homemade documentary of incursion in the West Bank, with Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat filming the building of a barrier wall that cut through his village’s fields and the protests and police reprisals that followed. Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi worked with Burnat to finish the feature, which won a number of Israeli film awards and was nominated for an Oscar for Feature Documentary.
“200 Meters” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐, 2020, streaming on Hoopla; for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, and YouTube) – A Palestinian construction worker (Ali Suliman, “The Kingdom”) learns his son is in an Israeli hospital within walking distance of a border checkpoint but is denied entry on a technicality and must come up with another way to cross over. Tautly directed by Ameen Nayfeh, with a wrenching lead performance from Suliman, a talented actor usually relegated to supporting parts.
“Foxtrot” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2, 2017, for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, and YouTube) – Israeli writer-director Samuel Moaz caused a ruckus with this drama that starts with a Tel Aviv couple (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler) being told that their IDF soldier son (Yonathan Shiray), has been killed. But nothing is quite what it seems in a tricky, troubled, compassionate film that both won the Grand Jury prize at Venice and was denounced by Israel's Minister of Culture.
“Gaza Mon Amour” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐, 2020, streaming on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Plex; for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, and YouTube) – For a change-up, a delicately funny romance and a reminder of what life in Gaza was and could be. Salim Daw plays a raffish old fisherman who falls in love late in the day; the great Hiam Abbass – Marcia Roy on “Succession” – plays the widow he sets his cap for. A charmer, but one with grit and clarity (and a hilarious performance by Manal Awad as the fisherman’s sister.)
“Paradise Now” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2, 2004, for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, and YouTube) From the gifted Palestinian-Dutch filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, a stark philosophical thriller about two best friends (Ali Suliman and Kais Nashef) who are recruited as suicide bombers before coming to a moral fork in the road. Winner of a Golden Globe for Foreign Language Film and nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar.
“The Present” (⭐ ⭐ ⭐, 2020, streaming on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Netflix; for rent on Amazon and YouTube) – Farah Nabulsi directed this 25-minute short film, nominated for a 2021 Oscar (as was the fine Israeli short “White Eye”), about a father (Saleh Bakri) and his young daughter (Maryam Kanj) trying to cross a West Bank checkpoint to bring home a new refrigerator. An all-too-real parable of day-to-day existence in an armed and Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
Comments? Other recommendations? Please don’t hesitate to weigh in.
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