Ten award-winning Palestinian short, feature films you must watch

Ahram Online , Saturday 18 Nov 2023

Many Palestinian films have scored top awards at international festivals over the years and have been nominated to the Academy Awards. Ahram Online highlights 10 films that you cannot miss.


The Stranger (2022)

Written and directed by Ameer Fakher Eldin, the feature film The Stranger (Al Gharib) was Palestine’s submission to the 94th Academy Awards (2022).

The film won Edipo Re Award at the Venice Film Festival (2021) where it was also nominated to Giornate degli Autori Award, among other awards.

The Stranger takes place in Golan Heights where "a desperate unlicensed doctor subverts his village's expectations when he accidentally encounters a wounded soldier from the war in Syria," reads the film's brief on IMDb. 

The film is available on Netflix, among other platforms.

An Obligation​ (2017)

Annemarie Jacir's film An Obligation (Wajib) was Palestine's selection in the foreign language films category at the 90th Academy Awards (2018) but was not nominated. 

Wajib is a family drama about community ties and local traditions centred on the story of a father and his estranged son who must come together to hand deliver his daughter's wedding invitations to each guest as per local Palestinian custom.

Jacir's two previous films have also been selected to vie for the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Oscars: Salt of this Sea (2008) and When I Saw You (2012). However, neither of them made it to the final selection made by the Academy.

The film is available on Netflix, Shahid, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

Eyes of a Thief (2014)

Written and directed by Plestinian-Jordanian filmmaker Najwa Najjar, the film stars Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga and Algerian singer and songwriter Souad Massi in her debut performance.

Eyes of a Thief was Palestine's choice for Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film race, but the film was not nominated. It won the Silver Pyramid at Cairo International Film Festival (2014)

Inspired by true events, Eyes of a Thief is centred on Tarek (Aboul-Naga), a Palestinian father who is released from an Israeli prison and returns to his hometown to find his daughter. By plunging the viewer into Tarek’s past, a sequence of events unravels the stifling nature of contemporary Palestinian society.

The film is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

Omar (2013)

Directed by Hany Abu Assad, film Omar premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize. This was followed by the film winning more than 10 awards across the international festivals including the Best Film and Best Director at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival, and scored the equal number of nominations.

In 2014, the film was nominated for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category, being Abu Assad’s second film to score the nomination.

Omar follows the love story between Omar and Nadia, who reside on different sides of the Israeli separation wall that cuts through the Palestinian West Bank. When Omar is arrested by the Israelis and asked to act as an informant, a series of climactic events unfold, spinning a web of danger and betrayal around the two lovers. The result is an honest, multi-layered, introspective look into the life of young Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The film is available on Netflix, Shahid, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

Gaza Mon Amour (2020)

The film was directed by twin brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser who also wrote the script together with Fadette Drouard.

The film was Palestine’s selection for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards (2021), but it was not nominated.

Gaza Mon Amour won multiple international awards, including the Best Actor Prize for Salim Daw at the Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden, the NETPAC award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Best Film award and Special Mention at the Cairo International Film Festival, the Best Actor award at the Antalya Film Festival and the Best Film and Best Script awards at the Valladolid International Film Festival.

Gaza Mon Amour is about 60-year-old fisherman Issa’s (Salim Daw) attempts to declare his secret love to dressmaker Siham (Hiam Abbass). He discovers an ancient statue of Apollo in his fishing net, causing trouble with the local authorities. Gaza Mon Amour also stars Maisa Abdelhadi, Georges Iskandar, Haitham Al-Omari, and Manal Awad.

The film is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

The Present (2020)

Written and directed by Palestinian-British filmmaker Farah Nabulsi, The Present was nominated to 93rd Academy Awards for the Best Live-Action Short Film category.

In addition to the Oscar nomination, the short film has also been shortlisted as a nominee for Best British Short at the (BAFTA), and garnered many awards, including the Audience Award at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, the Brooklyn International Film Festival, and the Arab Film Festival (AFF); the Festival Prize at Aesthetica Short Film Festival; Best Actor and Gold Medal at the Manhattan Short Film Festival, among 20 other recognitions.

The short movie sheds light on how Palestinians are deprived of the basic right of freedom of movement, telling the story of a Palestinian man and his young daughter who set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift, showcasing the struggles they go through between occupation soldiers, segregated roads, and checkpoints.

The film is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

It Must Be Heaven (2019)

The semi-autobiographical comedy is directed, written, and stars Elia Suleiman as the filmmaker who "travels to different cities and finds unexpected parallels to his homeland of Palestine," the film's brief on IMDb reveals.

The film was Palestine’s submission for the Academy Awards but was not nominated. It won a number of awards including FIPRESCI Prize and Special Mention at Cannes International Film Festival (2019) and garnered many nominations.

The film is available on Netflix, Shahid, among other platforms.

Ave Maria (2015)

Directed by Palestinian-British filmmaker Basil Khalil, Ave Maria was nominated for an Academy Award in the Live-Action Short Films category, becoming the first film in Arab cinema to run for an Oscar in this category. 

The film won many awards including the Silver Egg award for Basil Khalil and the Vilko Filač Award for Best Cinematography for Eric Mizrahi at the 8th Küstendorf International Film and Music Festival in Serbia, the Special Jury Recognition for Short Film award at Coronado Island Film Festival (CIFF) in USA, the Prix de Hermès (Best Short Film) award at Fréjus Short-film Festival 

The 14-minute comedy short tells the story of Palestinian nuns living in the middle of the West Bank who have their daily routine of silence and prayer disrupted when a family of Israeli settlers breaks down outside their convent at the beginning of the Sabbath. The family needs to get home but cannot operate the phone as the nuns have taken a vow of silence.

The film is available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, among other platforms.

The Olive Harvest (2003)

Written and directed by the Palestinian filmmaker Hanna Elias, The Olive Harvest was Palestine's selection in the foreign language films category at the 77th Academy Awards (2005) but was not nominated.

The film was also nominated for awards at a number of international festivals and it won the Best Arabic Film award at the Cairo International Film Festival (2004). 

“The Olive Harvest effectively integrates a simple, involving tale of romantic love, tradition, and family loyalty into the larger climate of unease in a Palestinian countryside vulnerable to aggressive Israeli settlers,” writes Variety.

Like Twenty Impossibles (2003)

The short film is Annemarie Jacir’s part of her graduation thesis while she was attending Columbia University.

It was the first Arab film to be included in the Cannes International Film Festival’s official selection for short films, and the first work of a Palestinian female director to enter the Cannes programme.

Like Twenty Impossibles won more than 15 awards at international festivals including the Best Film at Chicago International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. 

The film follows a Palestinian film crew attempting to cross Israeli checkpoints and was shot in occupied Palestine during the Second Intifada. 

The film is available on Netflix among other platforms.

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