Most people are not used to seeing Israelis and Palestinians grouped together. Most media outlets unfortunately prefer inflammatory and antagonistic headlines. In the world of cinema and the arts, as you all know, people are much more open-minded. There have been a number of Israeli and Palestinian films exploring the conflict in a nuanced and optimistic fashion. Here are 5 good ones you should check out in your spare time:
1. Ajami (2009)
(Photo via moviepostershop)
The film focuses on five different stories based in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa where Arabs, Palestinians, Jews, and Christians all reside. There’s Israeli Arab Omar, who is in love with a Christian girl and struggles to protect his family from a violent gang. Malek is an illegal Palestinian who works odd jobs to earn money for his mother’s operation. There’s also Israeli cop Dando, who diligently searches for his missing brother who may have been killed by Palestinians, while Binji is outcast by friends and family for associating with an Israeli girl. This great movie is testimony to the power of collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers.
2. Munich (2005)
(Photo via blogspot)
This Steven Spielberg movie was a critical and commercial success. Eric Bana plays a former Mossad agent ordered to lead a small squad of assassins on a top secret mission to exact vengeance on the members of Black September. Black September was the Palestinian terrorist group that massacred Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics as revenge for prior Israeli expulsions. While the film is told mainly through the eyes of Bana’s character, the film does serve as commentary at times, particularly during a scene where Bana debates the politics of the Middle East with his P.L.O. counterpart during a scene where they hide their true identities. There is also another scene where one of Bana’s team begins to question the morality and purpose of their mission. While the film is still mostly told from the perspective of the Israeli intelligence team, it remains wildly entertaining and contains glimpses of moral pangs regarding the righteousness of the operation.
3. Lemon Tree (2008)
(Photo via butlerscinema)
This movie is about a Palestinian widow who lives on the border between Israel and the West Bank. She is suddenly forced to fight for her lemon grove when the Israeli Defense Minister moves to a house next door. The Israeli Secret Service regards the grove a threat to the Minister and his wife, and obtains permits to uproot the widow’s lemon trees. Funny at times and sad at others, Lemon Tree is worth watching.
4. Paradise Now (2005)
(Photo via jaiarjun)
This controversial film is about lifelong friends Said and Khaled who are recruited by an extremist group to carry out a suicide attack on civilians in Tel Aviv. The two men are inadvertently separated at the border when Israeli border patrolmen chase them, leaving one of them to carry out the mission while wrestling with his own conscience as his friend and the extremist group try to track him down. Filled with suspenseful plot twists and outstanding performances, the emotionally charged Paradise Now was the first Palestinian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
5. Inch’allah (2012)
(Photo via mubi)
Chloe is a young Canadian doctor who divides her time between Ramallah, where she works with the Red Crescent, and Jerusalem, where she lives next door to her friend Ava, a young Israeli soldier. Increasingly sensitive to the conflict, Chloe goes daily through the checkpoint between the two cities to get to the refugee camp where she monitors the pregnancies of young women. As she becomes friends with Rand, one of her patients, Chloe learns more about life in the occupied territories and gets to spend some time with Rand’s family. Torn between the two sides of the conflict, Chloe tries as best she can to build bridges between her friends but suffers from remaining a perpetual foreigner to both sides. The film garnered five Canadian Screen Awards nominations.