“It’s a liberation movement fighting for justice.” In a 1970 interview from his office in Beirut, Palestinian novelist, journalist, and artist Ghassan Kanafani corrects the language of Australian journalist Richard Carleton, insisting that he stop using words like civil war and conflict. Narrative is everything. Kanafani’s stories helped us understand ourselves in the aftermath of the loss of Palestine, to gather the scattered shards of our existence and make meaning of our new reality, to resist. Our elders even taught us to sing children’s songs about him:
غسان علمنا حب القضية لموله زهرة وردة جورية
“Ghassan taught us to love the cause, bring him his flowers.”
In 1972, Ghassan Kanafani was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad in a car bomb in Beirut at the age of 36, along with his 17-year-old niece Lamees Najim. As long as Israel has existed, it has attempted to silence our stories because in order for it to exist the Palestinian people must always be disappearing. But the Palestinian people and our cause endure. As I write, Palestinians are mediating our lived reality under Israeli settler-colonialism—the pernicious form of colonialism that Israel shares with the US, which requires the elimination of the Indigenous people—for the world to see.
“The entire world is being tested about the meaning of humanity and justice,” says a reporter as medical staff soothe a crying infant who, at several months old, is the sole survivor of the Abu Hatab family in the Israeli bombing of the Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City on May 15 2021. Unfiltered images are coming directly from families resisting a second or third forced displacement in Jerusalem; parents attempting to distract their children from the terror of Israeli warplanes dropping bombs indiscriminantly over civilians in Gaza; households fighting off zionist settler lynch mobs that are breaking into their living rooms in Haifa.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of violence and abuse inflicted by Israel against all parts of the deliberately divided Palestinian population — from Nablus, to Lydd, to Beit Hanoun. The power of the image, as well as the brutality of Israeli violence are hitting the world differently now. After 73 years of Israeli settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing, the Palestinian narrative, our voices, and our language prevail.
This uprising is not a moment. Rather, it is the continuation of decades of sustained Palestinian resistance. We are building on a language that’s been co-created by generations of Palestinian, Indigenous, Black, and anti-colonial resistance movements around the world. In the spirit of the Black radical tradition that honors transnational anti-imperialist struggle, over the years BlackStar has screened films by filmmakers from across Palestine and the diaspora.
Palestinian stories create space for us to love each other, to love ourselves, to love our cause. They document the history of my people’s freedom struggle. Palestinian stories also do something more radical: they help us think both more broadly and deeply about racism, incarceration, resistance, resource theft, apartheid, and even climate change. Throughout my time at BlackStar, I’ve seen Palestine in Puerto Rico, in Dominican communities of Haitian descent enduring racism and living without documents, in the Indigenous struggle for clean water sources without oil pipelines running through them, in Ferguson where organizers build movements against police brutality and prisons, in Dalit people deemed outside of the human experience, in Johannesburg and Cape Town where the shadow of apartheid looms large, and in every corner of the world where injustice exists.
Below we highlight Palestinian films screened by BlackStar. We’ve also provided a small, limited list of additional Palestinian films you can watch online. Beyond what is listed below, Palestinians are creating media every moment, and you can find those on social media using the hashtags #Palestine #SaveSheikhJarrah #GazaUnderAttack #FreePalestine. Love to the people of Palestine.
A Home On a Rainbow
Directed by Rami Nihawi, Lina Alabed, Nadim Deaibes 2015 Documentary Short
The inhabitants of “Al Marj” refugee camp located in the Bikaa Valley, fled from different regions in Syria to find refuge in Lebanon. Instead of finding a safe haven, they were subjected to a sudden order of evacuation on the grounds of the tents being in proximity to a military zone. The authorities granted the refugees only 5 days to dismantle their laboriously built tents, without offering any alternative settlement option.”
Directed by Mohammed Jabaly 2016 Feature Documentary
A raw, first-person account of the last war in Gaza in the summer of 2014. Mohamed Jabaly, a young man from Gaza City, joins an ambulance crew as war approaches, looking for his place in a country under siege, where at times there seems to be no foreseeable future. While thousands of things are published on the recurring violence in Gaza, the stories behind them remain hidden. Not this one.
Directed by Rakan Mayasi 2017 Narrative Short
A Palestinian couple resorts to an unusual way to conceive, as the husband is detained in an Israeli jail where visits are restricted.
Your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba
Directed by Razan AlSalah 2017 Documentary Short
“She looks down at her virtual ghost marked with an X. ‘If I were walking, I would have found it, even if it’s not here anymore.’ Oum Amin, a Palestinian grandmother returns to her hometown Haifa through Google Maps Streetview, today, the only way she can see Palestine.”
In Vitro (al Mukhtabar)
Directed by Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind 2019 Narrative Short
In Vitro is set in the aftermath of an eco-disaster. An abandoned nuclear reactor under the biblical town of Bethlehem has been converted into an enormous orchard. Using heirloom seeds collected in the final days before the apocalypse, a group of scientists are preparing to replant the soil above.
Directed by Razan AlSalah 2020 Documentary Short
“I walk on snow to fall unto the desert. I find myself on unceded indigenous territory in so called Canada, an exile unable to return to Palestine. I trespass the colonial border as a digital spectre floating through Canada Park, transplanted over three Palestinian villages razed by the Israeli military in 1967.”
Directed by Suha Araj 2020 Narrative Short
While working at her aunt’s flower shop, Rosa takes her job underground when she begins a side business of shipping undocumented bodies to their home countries for burial.
Selected list of additional Palestinian films to watch (UPDATED OCT 2023):
Farha (2021), on Netflix
The Present (2020), on Netflix
A World Not Ours (2012), Vimeo on Demand
The Time that Remains (2009), Amazon Prime
All of Elia Suleiman’s films, available to stream for free from 5/21-5/30
They Do Not Exist (1974), full on Youtube
Palestine Film Institute’s Film of the Week – free film streaming every Wednesday
Wedding in Galilee (1987), full on Youtube
Jenin, Jenin (2002), full on Vimeo
Amreeka (2009), full on Vimeo
Roof Knocking (2017), full on Vimeo
3000 Nights (2015), Vimeo on Demand
Salt of This Sea (2008), Vimeo on Demand
Omar (2013), Amazon Prime
When I Saw You (2014), Vimeo on Demand
Paradise Now (2005), Youtube
Roshmia (2005), Guide Doc TV
5 Minutes from Home (2007), Vimeo on Demand
Where Should the Birds Fly? (2013), Kanopy
Slingshot Hip Hop (2008), full on Vimeo
Ghost Hunting (2018), Vimeo on Demand
Laila’s Birthday (2008), Amazon Prime
Yala to the Moon (2012), full on Youtube
The Wanted 18 (2015), Youtube