Art is a form of redemption. If we turn to a particular art form i.e. cinema, we can observe that it retains culture, history, and social dynamics and encapsulates identity. Therefore, let us turn to Palestinian cinema to understand what Palestine really means to the locals. Let us view these people as humans with functioning lives instead of helpless victims. Here we list the 15 best Palestinian movies of all time that could help you learn more about Palestine:
15. Love, Theft, and Other Entanglements (2015)
This is a film about a man who steals the wrong car. In an effort to bypass borders through bribery, the protagonist attempts to steal a harmless-looking Israeli-owned car.
The contents found within that car, however, set him off on a rollercoaster of a journey where he finds himself in the middle of two warring parties. Love, Theft, and Other Entanglements is a great movie to gauge the socio-political realities of the region without having to witness the brunt of the devastation.
14. Divine Intervention (2002)
Divine Intervention attempts to unravel the effects of occupation through unrelated ironic sequences of love and laughter.
The introspective nature of this film sets alight many emotions that leave the viewer with an unsettling state of mind.
13. Wajib (2017)
This film is culture encapsulated. A father and his estranged son come together to deliver all wedding invitations for his daughter by hand to each relative.
The difficulties engaged thereon are all indications of how arduous life can be for the average Palestinian. However, the conviction to preserve culture is only strengthened in adversity.
12. Gaza mon amour (2020)
A soft, heartwarming homage to the love stories in Gaza. This film has all the right ingredients for an experience that touches the heart.
The softness and subtleties involved throughout the film make the viewer forget about the overarching socio-political realities surrounding the characters of this film. The essence of this film lies in the fact that love conquers hate, no matter how strong that hate may be.
11. The Present (2020)
Buying a wedding anniversary gift for one’s significant other is a moment to cherish. For many, it is an enjoyable and wholesome activity. However, for Yusuf and his daughter, the price to buy a present is humiliation at every checkpoint simply because of their identity.
This Oscar-nominated short film attempts to shed light on the scale of adversity local Palestinians have to face on a daily basis.
10. Lemon Tree (2008)
The Lemon Tree follows the life of a widow in the West Bank. When a new Israeli defense minister moves next to her, he threatens to uproot her lemon tree. The film contains compelling performances from Hiam Abbas and Ali Suliman and is an overall treat to watch.
The lemon tree appears to be a metaphor for the Palestinian roots that link itself to their land. The film shows just how hard the locals have to strive in order to simply retain their identity as Palestinians.
9. When I Saw You (2012)
When I Saw You is a story of heartbreak and melancholy. It follows the path of a teenager deprived of a father. In his quest to find his father, the teenager embarks on a journey that changes everything.
This is a brilliant piece of work depicting the coming-of-age era of an entire generation in a war-torn region; the choices they are forced to make shape their socio-political realities at a very young age.
8. Private (2004)
This film is one to watch for philosophers. As a family is in a heated argument over war, they find themselves trapped in their house by a group of Israeli soldiers.
What follows is the unraveling of each member’s opinion onto their existing reality. A philosophical inquisition into the legitimacy of the occupation.
7. Zaytoun (2012)
In 1982, a young Palestinian refugee helps an Israeli fighter pilot escape Palestinian forces in order to retain help from the pilot.
The teenager wants to visit his ancestral home, hoping the pilot may repay his favor. Along the way, their relationship develops to a point far beyond conflict and hatred.
6. 3000 Nights (2015)
A school teacher residing on the West Bank has her life turned upside down when she is falsely accused and charged with abetting an attack on an Israeli checkpoint.
What follows is a testament to human resilience of unimaginable magnitudes. Layla, the school teacher, is faced with one difficulty after the other within the prison, but she does not cave.
5. Rana’s Wedding (2002)
Rana’s Wedding is a critical social commentary on gender dynamics mixed with the social structures that are enabled through the Israeli occupation.
It delves into the fact that something as beautiful as the act of marriage can provide to be a stressful hurdle in the lives of the oppressed.
4. The Idol (2015)
Based on a true story, this film follows the inspirational story of Mohammad Assaf, a singer from the refugee camp in Gaza. The sheer adversity he goes through just to make it to the audition of the Arab Idol stage contextualizes the many difficulties in retaining mobility for such groups.
However, his is a story of conviction and effort. Today, one of his songs is heard roaring across the speakers at protests around the globe; proving just how important it was to have his voice heard.
3. Salt of This Sea (2008)
Salt of This Sea proves that a great piece of art does not necessarily require a mountain of money to manifest itself. This is a story of redemption and reclaiming one’s identity.
A wholesome love story that involves thrilling twists and amusing character arks. If anything, it shows that even while oppressed, the Palestinian culture preserves itself. Even in tragedy, there is room for laughter.
2. Paradise Now (2005)
Paradise Now has all the ingredients for a thrilling blockbuster. With immaculate cinematography, intense dialogue, immersive character arks, and action-packed sequences; this movie packs a punch with its delivery.
If one wishes to gauge the socio-political realities of the region while simultaneously being entertained by the craftsmanship of its inhabitants, this is the film for them.
1. Omar (2013)
Coming from the same director as Paradise Now, Omar is probably the best film to come out of Palestine in the last decade. This is a story of love getting twisted up in regional politics. It has everything, from espionage and intense battle scenes to soft-spoken dialogue and the vigor of youth.
If one wishes to watch a well-rounded, emotionally stimulating, and intellectually rousing film, this is the one for them.
We can’t complete this list without mentioning these great Palestinian films as well:
- Laila’s Birthday (2008)
- Wedding in Galilee (1987)
Did we miss any title that should have been mentioned on our list of the best Palestinian movies of all time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!