Cinema of Palestine: Portraying the Struggle and Human Resistance

Cinema has been a powerful medium for shedding light on the complex and enduring conflict between Palestine and Israel. Over the years, filmmakers have produced a plethora of documentaries and fiction films that delve into the Palestinian experience, Israeli occupation, and the human struggles associated with this conflict. These films serve as mirrors of society, capturing the multifaceted dimensions of resistance and resilience.

Reflection of Resistance

Cinema has been a platform for showcasing various forms of resistance against Israeli occupation, from peaceful demonstrations to acts of civil disobedience. These films inspire and empower viewers to empathize with the plight of Palestinians and support their cause, revealing the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

A Mirror of Society

Cinema reflects the larger society’s response to the Israel-Palestine conflict. It sparks conversations, challenges biases, and calls for justice. These films become catalysts for change, contributing to a better understanding of the conflict’s nuances and the need for peaceful solutions.

Exploring the Depth and Intensity

The cinematic portrayal of Palestine and Israeli occupation is a profound and intense exploration of human experiences in the midst of conflict. These films provide a multifaceted understanding of the challenges faced by Palestinians and the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict. They offer an intimate perspective on the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the daily struggles and resilience of those affected.

Human Stories

Some films delve into the shared experiences, emotions, and complexities of life in Israel, serving as a testament to the depth of human connection in a divided society.

In essence, films about Palestine and Israeli occupation, whether in documentary or fiction form, reach beyond the screen, touching upon the complexities, emotions, and resilience of those affected by the conflict. These films serve as powerful tools for fostering empathy, understanding, and dialogue in a deeply entrenched and multifaceted conflict.

The following is a listing of some impactful titles that best convey how Palestinian cinema expressed the above-mentioned issues in a powerful narrative and visual way that both local and international l audience could relate to:

The Deceived (1972)

A Syrian film directed by Tawfik Saleh and released in 1972. The film is based on a novel by Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani. The film tells the story of three Palestinian refugees who attempt to cross the border into Lebanon after the war.

The film is a powerful indictment of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It shows the suffering that Palestinians are forced to endure as a result of the occupation.



Jenin, Jenin (2002)

A documentary directed by Palestinian filmmaker Mohammad Bakri, the film tells the story of the Jenin massacre, which was committed by the Israeli occupation in 2002. The film shines a light on the atrocities committed by the occupation against Palestinian civilians and shows how the occupation tried to cover up the truth about the massacre.





Gate of the Sun (2004)

An epic film directed by Yousry Nasrallah, tells the story of a young Palestinian man who tries to return to his village after forced displacement. The film highlights the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Emotionally resonant film that chronicles the Palestinian experience of exile and displacement. The film follows the story of Younes, a young Palestinian man who is forced to flee his village in northern Palestine during the Nakba (the Arabic word for “disaster”) in 1948. Younes eventually makes his way to a refugee camp in Lebanon, where he spends the next 50 years trying to rebuild his life.

The film is told through a series of flashbacks, as Younes lies in a coma in a Beirut hospital. His friend, Dr. Khalil, sits by his bedside and tells him stories of their shared past in an attempt to awaken him. The stories that Khalil tells are both personal and political, as he recounts their experiences of growing up in Palestine, the Nakba, and the ensuing years of exile and resistance.

Gate of the Sun is a powerful and moving film that offers a unique perspective on the Palestinian experience. The film is not afraid to show the suffering and hardship that Palestinians have endured, but it also celebrates their resilience and hope for the future.

Paradise Now (2005)

A film directed by Hany Abu-Assad, tells the story of two young Palestinian men who plan to carry out a suicide bombing. The film explores the motivations of Palestinian youth to become suicide bombers, and highlights Israeli occupation as one of the main causes of this phenomenon.





The Time That Remains (2009)

A feature-length film directed by Elia Suleiman, tells the story of a Palestinian family over 60 years, from the 1948 Nakba to the present day. The film blends realism and satire and provides a comprehensive look at the history of Palestine and its people.

The Time That Remains portrays the Palestinian experience from the Nakba to the present day through a series of vignettes, both comedic and tragic.

Suleiman’s unique cinematic style, featuring long takes, minimal dialogue, and surreal imagery, effectively conveys the absurdity and surreal nature of the Palestinian experience, also using humor to subvert Israeli propaganda and to highlight the hypocrisy of the Israeli government.

Eyes of a Thief (2010)

A feature-length film directed by Najwa Najjar, tells the story of a young Palestinian man who decides to join the armed resistance, Tarek, is driven to join the armed resistance after witnessing the brutality of

the Israeli military firsthand. His experiences are a reflection of the broader cycle of violence that has been perpetuated by the occupation.

The film shows how the occupation has led to the militarization of Palestinian society. Tarek’s transformation from a young man struggling to make ends meet into a hardened fighter is a reflection of the way in which the occupation has forced Palestinians to adopt a militaristic mindset in order to survive.

In addition to devastating impact of the occupation on the Palestinian economy, as Tarek’s family is struggling to survive, and his father is forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. This is a reflection of the fact that the Palestinian economy has been crippled by the occupation.

Displaying how the occupation has robbed Palestinians of their dignity and humanity the film is a reflection of the way in which the occupation has eroded the basic human rights of Palestinians.

Kingdom of Ants (2012)

A tribute to the role of resistance and a testament to the Palestinian cause. Tunisian director Chawki Mejri presented his feature narrative film “Kingdom of Ants” in 2012. The film, co-written by Mejri and Khaled Tarifi, was shot in both Syria and Tunisia.

The story revolves around the challenges faced by Palestinian resistance in the context of reflecting the harsh reality experienced by civilians and their continuous efforts, using limited resources, to repel the occupiers and reclaim their land.

“Kingdom of Ants” also sheds light on the ongoing shelling experienced by Palestinian families inside their homes, focusing on two key characters, Jalila and Tarek, who endure 12 years of oppression due to their involvement in the resistance.

The film reveals the depth of human and emotional relationships and the strong bonds that unite the people of Palestine, despite living through constant wars on their occupied lands.

When I Saw You (2012)

Directed by Annemarie Jacir and released in 2012. The film tells the story of a young Palestinian boy named Tariq who is forced to flee to Jordan with his mother after the Six-Day War in 1967.

The film explores the themes of displacement, loss, and hope. It shows how the Palestinian people have been forced to leave their homes and live in exile. The film also shows the strength of the Palestinian people and their determination to return to their homeland.



Omar (2013)

A feature-length film directed by Hany Abu-Assad, tells the story of a young Palestinian man who joins the armed resistance. The film explores the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a personal perspective and highlights the courage of young Palestinians who fight for freedom.





Wanted 18 (2014)

The documentary film “Wanted 18” deals with the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-1991), reviewing a side of the popular resistance and civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation during that period. It is an attempt to convey the Palestinian narrative of those events lightly and intelligently: on the lips of cows that seem neutral!

The film tells the story of eighteen cows that the residents of Beit Sahour decided to establish a farm and put them in during the First Intifada; in order to achieve a kind of economic independence and

boycott Israeli goods and products, in a step of a series of steps taken at the time in the context of civil disobedience.

The film portrays the story of the farm as an example of the Palestinian popular resistance against the Israeli occupation. The film shows that Palestinians were able to achieve tangible gains through popular resistance, even if these gains were temporary.

The film shows that the Israeli occupation seeks to suppress any form of Palestinian opposition and the film uses animation and black humor to highlight these issues in an attractive and effective way.

Ghost Hunting (2017)

A documentary directed by Raed Andoni, it narrates the story of the torture of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. The film sheds light on the human rights violations endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation.





Wajib (2017)

Directed by Annemarie Jacir, the film “Wajib” tells the story of the reality of living under Israeli occupation in Palestine through its portrayal of the city of Nazareth, the changes that have taken place in it from the perspective of two generations, and their impact on the residents.

The film portrays the Israeli occupation through its portrayal of the military checkpoints that are spread throughout the city and the presence of Israeli soldiers everywhere. The film also portrays the psychological impact of living under occupation, where Palestinians feel fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

It also deals with the social changes that have taken place in Nazareth, such as the emigration of young people abroad, the high unemployment rate, and the decline in the role of the family. The film also portrays the negative impact of these changes on Palestinian society.

The film tells the story of Abu Shadi, an elderly man from Nazareth, and his son Shadi, who lives abroad. Shadi returns to Nazareth to attend his sister’s wedding and spends a day with his father on a tour of the city. During this tour, the father and son discuss many issues, including the Israeli occupation and the social changes in Nazareth.

It Must Be Heaven (2019)

A feature-length film directed by Elia Suleiman, tells the story of a Palestinian who decides to leave Palestine in search of a better life. The film explores the feelings of despair and frustration felt by many Palestinians due to Israeli occupation.





200 Meters (2020)

A feature-length film directed by Amin Nayfeh, tells the story of a Palestinian man who tries to reach his family through the Israeli separation wall. The film highlights the daily suffering of Palestinians due to Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian film 200 Meters (2020) delves into the Israeli occupation of the West Bank through the story of Mustafa (Ali Suliman), a man who must travel just 200 meters to reach his son’s hospital bed. However, the Israeli separation wall blocks his path, forcing him to embark on a perilous journey.

The film highlights the daily challenges faced by Palestinians living under occupation, from the physical obstacles of checkpoints and walls to the psychological toll of living in a state of constant uncertainty and fear. Mustafa’s journey is a microcosm of the Palestinian experience, as he is forced to navigate a complex and labyrinthine system of Israeli bureaucracy and checkpoints in order to reach his loved ones.

Through these encounters, the film provides a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of the Palestinian experience. It shows how the occupation impacts people from all walks of life, regardless of their age, gender, or social status.

200 Meters portrays the Israeli occupation through the separation wall, which is a major obstacle for Palestinians living in the West Bank, the checkpoints, where Palestinians are often subjected to humiliating and dehumanizing treatment, while the Israeli bureaucracy, which makes it difficult for Palestinians to access basic services and amenities. While the psychological toll of living under occupation, which is evident in the characters of Mustafa and the other Palestinians in the film.

The Gift (2020)

Yusuf, a Palestinian from the West Bank, tries to buy a gift for his wife on their wedding anniversary, but the challenges of living under occupation make it difficult. The film is a powerful portrayal of how the occupation has robbed Palestinians of their dignity and humanity, fracturing Palestinian society and impacting the Palestinian economy.





Gaza MonAmour (2020)

Directed by Tarzan and Arab Nasser, the film “Gaza MonAmour” tells the story of a love affair between Issa, a 60-year-old fisherman, and Saham, a 40-year-old widow. These characters live in the besieged city of Gaza, where they face many challenges, including the Israeli blockade and the ongoing war.

The film shines a light on these challenges by portraying the difficult material conditions that Palestinians live in Gaza, such as power outages, food shortages, and lack of medicine. The film also portrays the psychological impact of living under occupation, where Palestinians suffer from feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.


Farha (2021)

Directed by Darin J. Sallam is a powerful film that tackles Palestine’s life under Israeli occupation in a number of ways. The film is set in 1948, the year of the Nakba, and it tells the story of a young Palestinian girl named Farah who is locked in a storeroom by her father to protect her from the Israeli military.

The film highlights the brutality of the Israeli military as they massacre innocent civilians, including women and children. This portrayal is consistent with the experiences of many Palestinians who have lived under Israeli occupation.

Through the resilience of the Palestinian people despite the brutality of the Israeli occupation, Palestinians continue to resist and fight for their freedom. Farha herself is a symbol of resilience. She survives the massacre of her village and escapes to safety. Her story is a testament to the strength and determination of the Palestinian people.

The film shows the importance of remembering the Nakba. The Nakba is a defining moment in Palestinian history, and it is important to remember the events of that time so that we can learn from them and work to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.


films about Palestine and the Israeli occupation are powerful tools for raising awareness, promoting understanding, inspiring empathy, and reflecting resistance and human struggle. They serve as mirrors of society and invite viewers to take action for a more just and peaceful world.

Israa Radaydeh
Film journalist, writer, and SEO editor for Al-Ghad and Jordan News newspapers.

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