Ten Palestinian films you should watch

6 min read
03 May, 2024

Over the last 20 years, Palestinian film directors have released a variety of movies that collectively form a cinematic archive of Palestinians’ struggle for survival and their native land.

The New Arab has curated a list of the ten Palestinian movies we think you should watch. 

Paradise Now (2005) 

Director: Hany Abu-Assad 

Paradise Now tells the story of what may be the last 48 hours in the lives of two lifelong friends from Nablus who have been recruited as suicide bombers.

The film is a realistic depiction of the situation in the Palestinian territories that illuminates why young men would decide to do something so drastic.

The movie shows the grotesque rituals that precede the attack and how Palestinians feel for those they consider invaders.

Despite a warm reception by some critics for ‘humanising’ the bombers, the film is not sympathetic to either side of the conflict. 

The Time that Remains (2009) 

Director: Elia Suleiman 

The Time that Remains is a portrait of family life in Nazareth at four historical moments: 1948, 1970, 1980, and the 2008-2009 war on Gaza.

Much of the semi-autobiographical film draws inspiration from Elia Suleiman’s late father's private diary, which he kept as a resistance fighter, and from his mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country.

Palestinian actor and activist (and Israeli citizen) Saleh Bakri, known for The Teacher, Backstage, and The Present, among others, stars in the movie.

A funny and tender work of surprising classicism, the film weaves together memory, dreams and desires – most memorably when the character of Suleiman pole vaults over the wall separating Israel from the West Bank.

The silence becomes a scream and a loud and painful laugh. This movie contains the intensity of a whole life. 

Pomegranates and Myrrh (2009) 

Director: Najwa Najjar 

A new bride, Kamar (Yasmine Elmasri), has to cope with the arrest and imprisonment of her husband, Zaid (Ashraf Farah) after Israeli soldiers confiscated his olive farm.

She decides to resume her passion for the dabke dance. Director Najwa Najjar wrote a romance movie centred around Kamar, who embodies the feminine.

Najjar depicts Kamal’s love against the background of everyday life in Ramallah in the early 2000s. The director, who was born to a Jordanian father and a Palestinian mother, makes Zaid’s family Christian rather than Muslim. 

The Idol (2015) 

Director: Hany Abu-Assad 

This moving feature film is based on the true story of Mohammed Assaf (Tawfeek Barhom), a wedding singer from the Gaza Strip who won the second season of the song contest Arab Idol in 2013.

Accurately crafted with a few fictionalised narrative elements, the movie is about friendship and a childhood dream coming true.

Hany Abu-Assad, a world-famous Palestinian director (twice nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film), positions himself in this film as the ambassador of a country and a condition for depicting the struggle of the Palestinians in Gaza. 

Wajib (2017) 

Director: Annemarie Jacir 

Abu Shadi, portrayed by Mohammad Bakri, is a divorced Christian father from Nazareth. According to local Palestinian custom, he must personally deliver his daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest. 

Accompanying him is his son, Shadi (Saleh Bakri). Shadi, a young architect, has opted for exile and now resides in Rome.

He's in a relationship with the daughter of a PLO member and has embraced a liberal lifestyle. This drama delves into the complexities of their father-son relationship, which indirectly mirrors those of the Palestinian people.

Director Annemarie Jacir skillfully captures daily life in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian Arab city inside Israel, which serves not just as a backdrop but also emerges as the film’s third protagonist. 

It Must Be Heaven (2019) 

Director: Elia Suleiman 

A Palestinian man embarks on a quest for a new homeland, leaving Nazareth behind and journeying first to Paris, then New York.

In these new cities, he encounters a surreal world that serves as a microcosm of Palestine. This sketch-like film portrays his daily life with a singular and satirical approach.

The main character is none other than the film’s director, Elia Suleiman himself. Similar to his previous works, dialogue is minimal, with spoken words resembling rhythmic and musical monologues.

Through his unique cinematic style, Suleiman depicts a form of passive action.

The Present (2020) 

Director: Farah Nabulsi 

This short film captures the daily struggles and micro-injustices inflicted upon Palestinian people. A father and a daughter living in a Palestinian enclave in the West Bank have to cross Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem to bring home a new fridge as a wedding anniversary gift.

The British-Palestinian film director and human rights activist Farah Nabulsi shot the film — inspired by the life of a friend in Hebron — in less than a week. 

200 Meters (2020) 

Director: Ameen Nayfeh 

Mustafa lives exactly 200 meters from his wife and children's home, separated only by the Israeli separation wall.

While his wife, Salwa, has agreed to work on the other side of the border, Mustafa remains in the West Bank city of Tulkarem and refuses to accept that he needs an Israeli visa to cross the land.

The movie revolves around Mustafa's harrowing journey to reach his son, who is hospitalised after an accident.

Unlike many individuals trapped in seemingly endless conflicts, Mustafa refuses to accept the denial of his freedom of movement. This marks Ameen Nayfeh’s debut feature-length film.

Gaza Mon Amour (2020) 

Directors: Mohammed Abou Nasser, Ahmad Abou Nasser 

The narrative about Issa Nasser's story in Gaza Mon Amour depicts a 60-year-old fisherman living in Gaza. Issa, portrayed by Salim Dau, harbours a secret love for the dressmaker, a widow named Siham, played by Hiam Abbas.

One day, he discovers a statue of an ancient Greek divinity in his fishing net and opts to conceal it in his house.

Problems arise for Issa when the Hamas authorities uncover the existence of this mysterious treasure. This delicate narrative about love portrays a population divided between various factions.

Some adhere strictly to orthodox beliefs, insisting that regarding Apollo as a god is a sin.

On the other hand, individuals like Siham’s daughter Leila yearn to depart Gaza and join the diaspora, seeking escape.

Lastly, there are those like Issa who fondly recall the sea from their youth, reminiscing about a time before they were confined to fishing only five kilometres from shore. 

Farha (2021)

Director: Darin Sallam 

In 1948, the Nakba (translating to catastrophe in English) shatters a Palestinian girl’s dream.

The Jordanian filmmaker with Palestinian roots, Darin Sallam, tells the true story of a massacre committed by Zionist militiamen in a Palestinian village through the eyes of a young girl. She changes only the names.

The young Farha (based on the real-life Radiyyeh) witnesses acts of indescribable violence before making it to Syria, where she shares her story, keeping it alive for generations to come.

The historical, visual representation of the Palestinian people in the movie is itself an act of resistance. 


Elisa Pierandrei is an Italian journalist and author based in Milan. She writes and researches stories across art, literature, and visual media

Follow her on Twitter: @ShotOfWhisky