Netflix launches 32 Palestinian films on its platform

Arab cinema
5 min read
15 October, 2021
Netflix has launched 32 Palestinian films on its platform under the collection Palestinian Stories many of which will be broadcast globally, in a step well-received by Palestinian directors and audiences.

Global network streaming entertainment service, Netflix, launched 32 Palestinian films on its platform this week, under a new collection dubbed Palestinian Stories.

The collection includes the works of prominent and prolific directors such as Annemarie Jacir, Mai al-Masry, Mahdi Fleifel, Suzan Youssef, Mai Odeh, Farah al-Nabulsi, Basil Khalil, and many others.

Among the films to be aired, five have won international awards, including Ghost Hunting, which won the Berlinale's first Silver Bear for Best Documentary and was screened at international festivals around the world.

"The selected Palestinian films all tell authentic stories of Palestinians – whether they live in the Palestinian territories or have emigrated from their country due to the instability of the political, economic, and social conditions"

The film Ave Maria gave its director Basil Khalil his first Oscar nomination and won numerous awards.

A World Not Ours has been screened at international film festivals and has also won several awards.

The film Divine Intervention went on to win the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2002 and became the first Palestinian film ever to be submitted for consideration at the Oscars.

Maradona's Legs is a heartwarming story that shows a slice of Palestinian life in the 1990s through the eyes of two little boys.

The selected Palestinian films all tell authentic stories of Palestinians – whether they live in the Palestinian territories or have emigrated from their country due to the instability of the political, economic, and social conditions.

The global network said in a statement issued on its website that the launch of this collection comes in honour of the creativity and passion of the Arab film industry, in the context of Netflix continuing to invest in distinguished stories from the Arab world.

The group covers "movies of various dramatic genres, and will review the depth and diversity of the Palestinian experience to tell stories about ordinary people; their lives, dreams, families, friendships, and the love relationships that develop between each other," the statement said. 

"I am very passionate about diversifying the content of our platform, as Netflix seeks to become a home for Arab cinema, which anyone in the world can access to enjoy distinguished Arab films and series," Noha al-Tayeb, director of acquisitions for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey at Netflix, said in a press statement.

"This step was well-received by Palestinian directors and audiences, mainly since it was circulated that the global network is highly biased towards Israeli directors and artists who unilaterally publish their films that mimic the reality of life in the occupied territories"

"We believe that great stories travel far beyond the borders of their homeland, retold in different languages, for the enjoyment of people from all walks of life. We hope that through the collection (Palestinian Stories), we will be able to present these beautiful stories to a global audience," she added. 

Most Palestinian films will be broadcast globally, and all will include Arabic subtitles depending on the countries in which they will be released.

This step was well-received by Palestinian directors and audiences, mainly since it was circulated that the global network is highly biased towards Israeli directors and artists who unilaterally publish their films that mimic the reality of life in the occupied territories.

Mai Odeh, a Palestinian director from the West Bank, who produced the movie The Crossing, expressed her happiness at the prospect of "finally making Palestinian films available to a wide audience through Netflix."

"All of us in the Palestinian film industry are very keen to share our narrative with the world through our original productions as an alternative to news reports that may not reflect our point of view," she told The New Arab.

Palestinian director Mahdi Fleifel, the owner of the films A Drowning Man, Zenoss and A World Not Ours, said that "a larger audience can have this exceptional opportunity to be free from all social obligations and work commitments, and enjoy watching these wonderful films in one sitting."

Khalil al-Mozaien, a director from the Gaza City, expressed his aspiration to have a number of his films that won international prizes be broadcast on the Netflix platform.

"The Palestinian content has become a special place among local, regional and even international films, especially since Palestinian directors always seek to convey the Palestinian reality to the world through drama yet without allowing politics to change this reality," Al-Mozaien told The New Arab.

"We are a people that love life and seek to live in peace and security in its homeland, and we aspire to compete with the world in the films that we worked on producing with simple capabilities and in unusual circumstances, but we can raise our voice loudly that we want to live in peace and security," he added.

"The Palestinian content has become a special place among local, regional and even international films, especially since Palestinian directors always seek to convey the Palestinian reality to the world through drama yet without allowing politics to change this reality"

Although these stories are Arab par excellence, they involve purely human themes. They will leave their mark on a broad audience worldwide, and this is the true beauty of storytelling, according to Palestinian directors.

For his part, Ahmed Masoud, a 26-year-old young man from the Gaza City, expressed his happiness that he will watch Palestinian films through this international platform.

"Every time I watch movies on the net, I hope that the day will come when I watch Palestinian films that mimic international films and prove to the world that we are an educated people who love life and love art," Masoud said.

"I am very excited to see all the Palestinian films that will be shown, and I will invite my friends to watch them too," he added.

Sally Ibrahim is a Palestinian reporter with The New Arab based in the Gaza Strip