Scene from Farha, Netflix Scene from Farha, Netflix

Controversy has raged this week over a new movie showing on Netflix. Michael Lavalette urges you to watch it

Darin Sallam’s Farha is a Jordanian film set in Palestine during the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. The Israeli state, and its supporters globally, have taken to social media to denounce the film and demand Netflix take it down. They claim it misrepresents history and portrays the Israeli forces active in 1948 in a negative light.

Given the faux outrage surrounding the film I sat down to watch it with a degree of trepidation. If the film attempted to cover even a fraction of the horrors unleashed on the Palestinian people in 1947/48 I wasn’t sure I’d be able to watch.

Yet that isn’t what Farha is about. It’s a beautifully filmed piece that focuses on the experience of one young girl during the ethnic cleansing of her village.

Farha is the village mayor’s daughter and is determined to go to the city to continue her studies. Her father is anxious about the political situation and thinks she would be safer to stay in the village and marry. She is a determined young woman, however, and manages to persuade her father to enrol her in the girls’ school.

Before she can fulfil her dreams the village is attacked by Zionist forces. Villagers flee, some fight and, when Farha refuses to leave her father, he locks her in the family food cellar to protect her and promises to come and get her as soon as he can. Farah doesn’t see her father again.

From the enclosed world of the cellar Farha waits. And from her vantage point she witnesses some of the horrors of ethnic cleansing. We hear the gun fire, we see the impact of gas, used to clear the homes and we hear the trucks with loud speakers demanding Palestinians ‘leave or be killed’. Perhaps this is what has got the Israelis in such a tizzy. That, for the first time on film on such a major platform, some of the atrocities of the Nakba are acknowledged.

What can’t be denied, though, is the veracity of such events. Indeed, the reality of the ethnic cleansing that took place in villages like Der Yassin, or in hundreds of villages across Galilee, or in cities like Haifa or Akka was far worse than what is covered in the film. Indeed, some of the description in Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, expose, in detail, the brutality of what Israeli forces unleashed on Palestinian people during the Nakba.

The most difficult scene in the film is when a young family wander into Farha’s family courtyard. The young woman is about to give birth and delivers her son in the most difficult of circumstances. Once the child is delivered Farah shouts to the family to help her get out, but before they can a Zionist patrol arrives demanding to know ‘where their weapons are’. Farha watches on, with horror, at what unfolds.

Farha is a very powerful film. It reveals a little of the horror of the Nakba and the violent roots of Israeli society. Further the film shows these events from the perspective of ordinary Palestinians.

Do yourself a favour and make sure you watch this moving and important film.

Farha is available to watch on Netflix

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