Michael Lavalette reviews a number of Palestinian films currently streaming on Netflix

Netflix are currently streaming a series of Palestinian films, most are well worth watching.

Pomegranates and Myrrh tells the story of newlyweds Kamar and Zaid, two Christian Palestinians from the Ramallah area, whose new life together is shaken by Ziad’s arrest.

Ziad is arrested in a stand off with Israeli soldiers who are trying to confiscate his land. He is imprisoned and pressured to sign over the land to the army – but he refuses which means he is held in ‘administrative detention’ after his original sentence is served.

Through Kamar’s experience we get the reality of prison visits, check points, settler violence, army incursion and land grab. 

Kamar copes through her love of dancing. She is a member of a Dabka troop and a new instructor – with his own back story of loss in Beirut in 1982 – also introduces a degree of sexual tension to the story.

Well worth a watch.

Pomegranates and Myrrh, Netflix

When I’m talking or teaching about Palestine, people often ask about checkpoints and what they are like.

It’s difficult for people in Britain to grasp the reality of what they mean: the disruption to daily life, the (wasted) time spent trying to get through, the mixture of arrogance and impunity which shapes the soldiers’ attitudes to Palestinians (especially Palestinian young people). 

Many of these themes are captured in the short film Like Twenty Impossibles. It’s only just over 16 minutes long but gives a real insight into what checkpoints are like and mean.

Similarly the 10-minute short The Crossing centres on the experience of three siblings trying to get from the West Bank to Palestine48, with a special permit because their grandfather is dying.  

Special permit or not, nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to negotiating with the Israeli occupation forces.

The Crossing, Netflix

Children of Shatila is a really moving film about what happened to Shatila camp, in Beirut, in August 1982 and the impact it had on people’s lives. Told through the eyes of children it really is worth watching.

A similar documentary that focuses on children is Born in Gaza. Filmed after the 2014 Israeli attack, it tells the story of life, and the struggle for survival, of the people in the Gaza strip.

Born in Gaza, Netflix

3000 Nights tells the story of a wrongly convicted Palestinian woman, Layal.

Soon after her arrest Layal discovers she is pregnant and goes on to give birth to Nour whilst inside.

Set in the early 1980s it covers the brutality of treatment of Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli authorities – and the attempts to recruit prisoners to be ‘canaries’ (informers on their fellow Palestinian activists.)

It tells the story of Layal’s growing political awareness and the prisoners’ resistance within the Israeli prison regime.

3000 Nights, Netflix

Giraffada is a movie that is loosely based on a true story from the Second Intifada. 

The film is set in the West Bank town of Qalqilya (though some of the scenes are clearly shot in the more mountainous Nablus).

Qalqilya is in the ‘northern sector’ of the West Bank and is an agricultural town with significant, productive land. It is particularly well-known for the quality of its oranges.

But, today, farmers are cut off from their land by the apartheid wall that encircles the town. In fact the town’s inhabitants say they are ‘living in a bottle’ as there is only one road and one entrance into the town.

During the Second Intifada an Israeli incursion attacked the town’s zoo – the only zoo in the West Bank. As part of the attack the zoo’s giraffe was shot.

Giraffada, Netflix

The movie is based on the (fictional) story of the zoo’s vet Yacine, his son, Ziad and a French photographer Lora who try to smuggle a giraffe into Qalqilya zoo from Palestine48 after an Israeli air raid causes the death of one of their two giraffes.

But smuggling a giraffe from Palestine48 onto the West Bank isn’t straight forward!

The film addresses issues with checkpoints, especially the oppressive checkpoint just outside Qalqilya (where I have spent many an hour ‘waiting to be processed’), army incursions, clashes with resistance forces, farmers cut off from their land and the ongoing plight of the West Bank’s only zoo.

Tel Aviv on Fire is based on the story of hapless Salam who gets a job in film production in Ramallah. He only gets the job because his uncle owns the company. 

A chance encounter at a checkpoint with an Israel army commander, Assi, leads to him getting a role as a scriptwriter on a popular  television drama based on events leading up to the Six Day War of 1967. 

Rather improbably Assi starts writing parts for the Israeli general in the drama. And this opens up ‘debate’ over the direction of the TV drama. Can it ignore the realities of Palestinian oppression and come to a ‘happy’ (?) ending. The movie makes the answer clear.

Tel Aviv on Fire, Netflix

Finally, the short film 3 Logical Exits looks at the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. 

In 2019 the Lebanese Government  reclassified Palestinian refugees as ‘foreign workers’ and required them to have a permit in order to work.

This is just the latest in a long list of discriminatory legislation put in place against a Palestinians in the country.

The short documentary by film maker Mahdi Fleifel follows up his earlier film A Man Returned. It follows Reda from the Ain El-Helweh camp in Southern Lebanon.

The film  looks at the three logical exits for Palestinians: drugs (either selling or using), joining the factions (either Islamic or Palestinian liberation organisations) or migration out the country.

It’s astonishing what is crammed in to 15 minutes of filming!

In many ways this is the most difficult one to watch. But it captures the lack of freedoms, lack of choices and despair that is a central part of refugee life.

3 Logical Exits, Netflix

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