Middle East and Israel-Palestine Films

The most wide-scale and intractable conflict in the world today. The films in this category cover the wider Middle Eastern context, including the Western invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the impact these invasions had on civilians in these countries. Many of the films however, those made within the region and outside of it, particularly focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the racial, national, and religious tensions between neighbouring people and states. 

  • Jerusalem skyline Taken 2012 Jerusalem, Israel. Copyright V. Nesfield, used with permission.

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (2011) Tal is the 17-year-old daughter of recent French immigrants to Israel who live in Jerusalem. Following a bomb attack on a local café, she throws a bottle into the sea near Gaza with a message asking for an explanation. Naïm, a sensitive but aimless 20-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza, discovers the bottle and tries to answer Tal's question by initiating an email correspondence. Their mutual suspicion soon develops into a tender friendship. (Directed by Thierry Binisti.)

Ajami (2009) The film contains five storylines, telling the complex lives in Ajami, a multi-cultural district of Jaffa where Jews, Muslims and Christians live side by side. A young Israeli Arab boy, Nasri, who lives in the Ajami neighbourhood narrates the film, as the lives of Bedouin, Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli communities are explored. (Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani.)

A Mighty Heart (2007) Harrowing account of the life and death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists in 2002. Based on the memoirs of Daniel's widow Mariane, played by Angelina Jolie, the film examines Pearl's reasons for being in Pakistan at the time of his abduction, and the subsequent events leading up to his tragic death. (Directed by Michael Winterbottom.)

Amreeka (2009) After leaving their home in Bethlehem to live in suburban post-9/11 America with family, a Palestinian-Christian mother and son discover that assumptions and prejudices follow them to America, but that help and support can come from unlikely places. (Directed by Cherien Dabis.)

At Five in the Afternoon (2003) This was the first foreign film to be made in Kabul, Afghanistan after the Taliban were overthrown. Centred around the story of Noqreh, a progressive young woman who dreams of growing up to be the President of the Republic despite her oppressive home life and a strained relationship with her bigoted but loving father, the film portrays the daily struggles of Afghan women in post-Taliban Afghanistan with tenderness and hope against a tragic background of death and despair. (Directed by Samira Makhmalbaf.)

The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) (2007) Comedy revolving around an Egyptian police band who arrive in Israel to play a gig, only to take the wrong bus and find themselves stranded in a desolate Israeli village. Out of desperation, two of the band members, conductor Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai) and playboy Haled (Saleh Bakri), accept an invitation from cafe owner, Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), to stay at her residence. The two distinctly different cultures soon realise the universal bonds of love, music and life. (Directed by Eran Kolirin.)

Beyond the Walls (Me'Ahorei Hasoragim) (1984) The story takes place in the high-security block of the central Israel Prison Service jail. Uri and Issam are the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian prisoner groups, respectively. After a musical performance in the prison, a fight breaks out between Hoffman, a Jewish inmate, and a Palestinian. When Hoffman is killed, the security officer initiates a fight between the sides, pinning the blame for the murder on Issam's cell. Doron, the only Jewish prisoner in the Arab cell, is asked to sign a document implicating Issam in the crime, but refuses and commits suicide. He leaves a note saying that his cell was not responsible for the crime. As a result, Uri and Issam begin a general hunger strike, and make personal sacrifices in order not to break it. (Directed by Uri Barbash.)

The Bubble (2004) Emotionally moving and brimming with youthful energy, The Bubble is a snapshot of three Tel Aviv friends. Their lives filled with trendy cafes, boutiques and the occasional sexual adventures, the trio seek refuge in their metropolitan "bubble," isolating them from omnipresent fear of modern warfare around them. But when young Noam falls in love with a Palestinian young man named Ashraf, a chain of events is set in motion threatening their naïve, idealistic existence. (Directed by Eytan Fox.)

Chronicle of a Disappearance (Segell Ikhtifa) (1996) Drama with director and actor Suleiman starring in the film along with his family members, his relatives, and other non-actors. The film features no real storyline or character arc. Suleiman plays himself returning to Israel and the West Bank after a long absence which is followed by a series of barely connected vignettes and sketches, which are intended to convey the feelings of restlessness and uncertainly from Palestinian statelessness. The film's tone varies through these scenes such as "Nazareth Personal Diary", which has a light and domestic tone, and "Jerusalem Political Diary", which has a more ideological tone. (Director Elia Suleiman.)

Cup Final (Gmar Gavai’a) (1991) A young Israeli soldier, Cohen, is kidnapped by a group of Palestinian fighters who hold him as a hostage during the conflict. The 1982 FIFA World Cup happens to be on during the invasion, and their mutual love of association football (and support for the Italian team), helps break down the barriers of nationalism and the historical baggage that the two bring. An alliance is forged between the two men. Their relationship heads for a tragic ending as the Italian team, along with the goal scoring Paolo Rossi, make their march toward winning the World Cup. (Directed by Eran Riklis.)

David & Fatima (2008) drama about a Palestinian woman and Israeli man from Jerusalem who fall in love. The film is a retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. (Directed by Alain Zaloum.)

Edut (2011) Palestinian testimonies collected after the second Intifada revealed a harsh daily life that, for Israelis, had always belonged to the "others" - the Palestinians - and hence was denied. A few years later, trespassing what had been taboo until then, Israeli officers who served during the Intifada told of their memories. Memories of violence, of suffering, of humiliation. The stories from both sides matched. Against the backdrop of local empty landscapes, an Israeli officer remembers... a Palestinian civilian remembers as well. A journey into the collective memory of Palestine and Israel takes place. (Directed by Shlomi Elkabetz.)

Fire Over Israel (2008) An American businessman, Romi (Eion Baily) travels to Israel for the funeral of his father. While there, he is persuaded to do a brief reconnaissance for the Israeli Secret Service inside the city of Ramallah. However, the assignment goes awry and Romi finds himself trapped behind enemy lines with a mysterious, beautiful Palestinian woman. Caught in the crossfire between opposing sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he is forced to re-examine his own world view, as well as those of the Palestinians. But, can he really trust them? And can they trust him? (Directed by Mitch Davis.)

5 Broken Cameras (2011) Filmed from the perspective of a Palestinian farm labourer (Emad Burnat), 5 Broken Cameras was shot using six different video cameras five of which were destroyed in the process of documenting Emad’s family's life as well as Palestinian and International resistance to Israeli appropriation of land and occupation. Emad, who lives in Bil'in, just west of the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, was thrust into global politics when his community peacefully resisted Israeli plans to erect a wall through their land to separate them from the ever growing Israeli settlements. Initially given the camera to chronicle the birth and childhood of his son Gibreel, the film captures Gibreel growing into a precocious preschooler against the backdrop of the many non-violent protests that have become an intrinsic part of life in Bil'in. (Directed by Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat.)

Gaza Ghetto: Portrait of a Palestinian Family (1984) is the first documentary to be filmed in Gaza, following the daily life of the family of Abu el-Adel under the intifada. The film gives a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a Palestinian family in a refugee camp, the Israeli military involvement, and the high-profile figures involved in the Israeli-Gaza relations. (PeA Holmquist, Joan Mandell, Pierre Bjorklund.)

Hanna K (1983) The story of Hanna Kaufman, a child of Holocaust survivors and an American-Jewish immigrant to Israel, who is a court-appointed lawyer assigned to defend a Palestinian, Salim Bakri, accused of terrorism and infiltration. Salim claims that he was trying to regain possession of his family house. Hanna saves him from a jail sentence, but he is deported to Jordan. Salim eventually returns, is jailed for illegal immigration, and he again asks for her services. Hanna investigates the story and discovered that Salim’s family home is now a tourist attraction in Kafr Rimon, a settlement built and lived in by Russian Jews. Hanna is confronted with the fact that one legacy of the Holocaust was the disposition of the Palestinians while her colleagues attempt to persuade her of the merits of the arrangement for Salim with the argument that Israel must be “defended” even if Palestinians are denied their rights. (Directed by Costa-Gavras.)

In This World (2002) Torn straight from the headlines, this film follows young Afghan Jamal and his older cousin Enayat as they embark on a hazardous overland trip from their refugee camp at Peshawar, north-west Pakistan. Entering Turkey on foot through a snowy, Kurdish-controlled pass, the pair again take their lives into their hands and face suffocation when they are locked in a freight container on a ship bound for Italy. From there they plan to travel on to Paris, the Sangatte refugee centre and ultimately asylum in London. (Directed by Michael Winterbottom.)

Jaffa (2009) highlights the complexities and challenges of an Israeli Jewish and an Israeli Arab family working together. With a clandestine relationship, racism and tense family relations colliding in a tragic event, the strength of an inter-race relationship is tested. (Directed by Keren Yedaya.)

The Kite Runner (2007) As young boys, Amir and Hasan were inseparable, until one fateful act tore them apart. Years later, Amir will embark on a dangerous quest to right the wrongs of the past - and redeem himself in ways he never expected - by displaying the ultimate courage and devotion to his friend. (Directed by Marc Forster.)

Kedma (2002) is renowned Israeli filmmaker Gitai's powerful drama about a group of European Jewish refugees who arrive at Palestine in the critical year of 1948. Carried on the deck of the freighter Kedma, they come ashore to find not the Promised Land of milk and honey but a war torn desert in the bloody throes of transformation into the state of Israel. Rescued from a British army ambush at beachside by Palmach Jewish guerrillas, the Kedma's ragged refugees are remade into soldiers expected to offer their lives to defend a nation that does not yet exist in a land they've never known. With no common language and only the clothes on their backs, Rosa, Yiddish speaking teenager Menachem, and Lodz ghetto escapee Janusz form a desperate fellowship as they follow their rescuers into battle. (Directed by Amos Gitai.)

Kippur (2000) War drama based on Gitai's personal experiences in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Weinraub (Liron Levo) and Ruso (Tomer Russo) are two young Israeli reserve soldiers who suddenly find themselves at war after Egypt and Syria launch attacks on Sinai and the Golan Heights. Enlisted into a helicopter search and rescue team, their job is to bring wounded soldiers back from the frontline for medical treatment. What begins as a rite of passage unfolds into a surreal and tortured nightmare as the men come face to face with the horror and irrationality of war. (Directed by Amos Gitai.)

Lebanon (2009) June 1982, the First Lebanon War. A lone tank and a paratrooper's platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare. The four members of a tank crew find themselves in a violent situation that they cannot contain. Motivated by fear and the basic instinct of survival, they desperately try not to lose themselves in the chaos of war. (Directed by Samuel Maoz.)

Lemon Tree (2008) Salma, a Palestinian widow, has to stand up against her new neighbour, the Israeli Defense Minister, when he moves into his new house opposite her lemon grove, on the green line border between Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli security forces are quick to declare that Salma’s trees pose a threat to the Minister’s safety and issue orders to uproot them. Together with Ziad Daud, her young Palestinian lawyer, Salma goes all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court to try and save her trees. Her struggle raises the interest of Mira Navon, the Defense minister’s wife, who is trapped in her new home and in an unhappy life. Despite their differences and the borders between them the two women develop an invisible bond, while forbidden ties grow stronger between Salma and Ziad. (Directed by Eran Riklis.)

Miral (2010) The true story of Hind Husseini's efforts to establish the Dar Al-Tifel institute and orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 partition of Palestine and creation of the state of Israel. Following the death of her mother Miral is sent to the Institute, and is shielded from the troubles of the outside world as she grows up within its walls. However when she is assigned to teach at a refugee camp Miral is quickly awakened to the reality of her peoples struggle. When she falls for political activist, Hani, Miral finds herself torn between the fight for the future of her people and Mama Hind’s belief that education is the road to peace. (Directed by Julian Schnabel.)

Paradise Now (2005) Drama following two Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. When Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) are intercepted at the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young woman (Lubna Azabal) who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their actions. (Directed by Hany Abu-Assad.)

Paratroopers (Masa Alunkot) (1977) A significant film relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for its critical assessment of Israeli military life. The director worked as a paratrooper doctor during the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. Paratroopers follows a new paratrooper recruit and his death during a training exercise. (Judd Ne'eman.).

Private (2004) Mohammad, his wife and their five children live in a large, isolated house located halfway between a Palestinian village and an Israeli settlement. The house, in the crossfire of the two sides, is a strategic lookout point that the Israeli army decides to seize, confining the family to a few downstairs rooms in daytime and a single room at night. Mohammad refuses to leave this home and, reinforced by his principles against violence, decides to find a way to keep his family together in the house until the Israeli soldiers move on. (Directed by Saverio Costanzo.)

The Promise (2011) is a Channel 4 four-part series simultaneously telling the story of Len and his granddaughter Erin. Len, a British soldier, took part in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen before finding himself in Palestine in 1948, trying to manage the flood of Jewish immigrants arriving from Europe, the Jewish freedom fighters who will use any means necessary to force the British out of Palestine, and the native Arab population who clash with the soldiers and the immigrants. Meanwhile in present-time, Erin reads Len's diary during her visit to Israel and becomes more and more embroiled in the tense political environment in the West Bank as she retraces her grandfather's footsteps. (Peter Kosminsky.)

Strangers (2007) A chance encounter in Berlin sparks an improbable, passionate affair between an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman in this critically acclaimed, bittersweet drama. Eyal (Liron Levo) and Rana (Lubna Azabal) serendipitously meet when their bags are swapped on the subway during the 2006 World Cup finals. Over six days, they get swept away by romantic desire, soccer mania and competing political loyalties. When Rana suddenly return to Paris, Eyal must make some bold choices that could alter their lives forever. (Directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv.)

Strangers No More (2010) In the heart of Tel Aviv, there is an exceptional school where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. Many of the students arrive at Bialik-Rogozin School fleeing poverty, political adversity and even genocide. Here, no child is a stranger. The film follows several students' struggle to acclimate to life in a new land while slowly opening up to share their stories of hardship and tragedy. (Directed by Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman.)

Tears of Gaza (2010) is a Norwegian anti-war film concerning the Gaza War as seen through the eyes of a group of Palestinian children. The film is based on the imagery taken by people themselves in Gaza while the war continued, with some additional material from the few foreign journalists who were present while the conflict unfolded.  (Directed by Vibeke Løkkeberg.)

Turtles Can Fly (2004) The film tells the story of children in a refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion, the first film shot in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. On the Iraqi-Turkish border, enterprising 13-year-old Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) is the de facto leader of a Kurdish village, thanks to his ability to install satellite dishes and translate news of the pending US invasion. Organizing fellow orphans into landmine-collection teams so that they can eke out a living, he is all business until the arrival of a clairvoyant boy and his quiet, beautiful sister. (Directed by Bahman Ghobadi.)

Vasermil (2007) Named after the local soccer stadium in the Southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva, Vasermil tells the story of three teenagers from separate marginalised communities, who pin their hopes on soccer as a way out. Shlomi, Adiel and Dima are recruited by the coach of the local soccer team to take part in the Be’er Sheva Youth Championship, held on Independence Day at the Vasermil Stadium. Success at the tournament means getting noticed by the scouts of the local soccer empire, Hapoel Be’er Sheva. In order to win, Shlomi, Adiel and Dima, each with their own set of adversities, will have to learn to play as a team and overcome their differences. (Directed by Mushon Salmona.)

Waltz With Bashir (2008) Powerful anti-war animated documentary exploring a period in Folman's life when he was enlisted as a teenage soldier in the first Lebanon war in the early 1980s, during which time he was present at the massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Christian Phalangist militia. Looking back, Folman realises that he has blocked out practically all memories of this horrific event. Resolving to face up to this missing chapter of his past, he embarks on a voyage of self-discovery involving interviews with old friends and former colleagues from around the world. As he delves deeper into the mystery, his dreams and memories begin to surface, and these are represented in the film's eerie and often surreal animated sequences. (Directed by Ari Folman.)

When I Saw You (2012) 1967; the world is alive with change: brimming with reawakened energy, new styles, music and an infectious sense of hope. In Jordan, a different kind of change is underway as tens of thousands of refugees pour across the border from Palestine. Having been separated from his father in the chaos of war, Tarek, 11, and his mother Ghaydaa, are amongst this latest wave of refugees. Placed in "temporary" refugee camps made up of tents and prefab houses until they would be able to return, they wait, like the generation before them who arrived in 1948. With difficulties adjusting to life in Harir camp and a longing to be reunited with his father, Tarek searches a way out, and discovers a new hope emerging with the times. (Directed by Annemarie Jacir.)

Within the Eye of the Storm (2012) This film follows Bassam and Rami, a Palestinian, and an Israeli who are forced to revaluate their enmity and their dedication to fighting their respective neighbours, when their daughters are both killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both men must struggle to put personal grief behind their unity and campaign for peace. (Shelley Hermon.)

Film synopses and descriptions for A Mighty Heart; At Five in the Afternoon; The Band’s Visit; The Bubble; Fire Over Israel; 5 Broken Cameras; In This World;The Kite Runner; Kippur; Lemon Tree; Miral; Paradise Now and Waltz With Bashir, from Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/). Descriptions for Kedma;Strangers; Turtles Can Fly and Vasermil, from Amazon USA (http://www.amazon.com/). Synopses for Edut; Lebanon; Strangers No More and When I Saw You, from IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/).

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