May 15 marks the commemoration of the Nakba, an event also known as the Palestinian Catastrophe. In 1948, Palestinian society and land were systematically destroyed and taken over by paramilitary forces and the Israeli army. At least 15,000 people were massacred and over 750,000 more were violently displaced.

The effects of the Nakba continue today, not only in the trauma held by the survivors. It continues in the trauma passed down to their descendants. It continues in the control Israel maintains over Palestinians, their access to basic resources and the limitations of their movements. It continues in the destruction and stealing of Palestinian land and homes. And it continues in the horrifying violence Israeli forces enact against the Palestinian people.

It is important to commemorate Nakba Day, to understand what took place, and how it influences the present day.
We have selected ten films that explore the Nakba through the voices of those who survived it as well as of those who continue to feel its effects to this day.

 

Image of a teenaged girl in traditional Palestinian clothing sitting in a dark room with a lantern from the film Farha.

Film still from Farha

Farha (2021) dir. Darin Sallam

Based on a true story, Farha depicts the story of a 14-year-old girl in Palestine in 1948. She dreams of attending school in the city with her best friend Farida, but she knows that, as the daughter of the mukhtar (the head of the village), she must push against tradition to do so. Little does she know, her dream is further away than she thinks. As British control in the country comes to an end, Israel has begun forced displacements across the region. When the violence reaches their village, Farha’s father locks her in a cellar in an attempt to protect her. While Farha waits and watches through the cracks, her village is destroyed.

“In this remarkable and devastating story, Darin Sallam’s resonant directorial voice presents a penetrating perspective on the Nakba and returns the gaze to a cultural legacy in the midst of a global resurgence.” (Nataleah Hunter-Young, TIFF)

Available on Netflix.

 

An image of two adults and their child sitting at a table in a kitchen eating breakfast, from the film The Time That Remains.

Film still from The Time That Remains

The Time That Remains (2009) dir. Elia Suleiman

Subtitled “Chronicle of a Present Absentee,” this humorous yet heartbreaking film is a semi-autobiographical story about Elia Suleiman’s father, inspired by his diary entries, letters his mother sent to family members and the director’s own memories. Beginning in 1948 and ending in the present, it recounts the story of the Suleiman family in Nazareth throughout this period, observing the absurdity of life in classic Suleiman fashion.

Available on AMC+.

 

An image of the director, from behind, speaking to an older man about the Nakba while standing in front of a cactus, from the film 1948.

Film still from 1948

1948 (1998) dir. Mohammed Bakri

This documentary is the record of the memories of a group of Palestinian elders, many of whom are veterans from the Nakba in 1948. In their own words, they describe the moments when they became refugees. They describe the brutality in which they were deported, or the fear of massacre that made them and their families flee. Their stories of refugee struggles are interspersed with poems of Mahmoud Darwish.

Available on YouTube.

 

A black and white image of a large group of Palestinians carrying parcels of their belongings from the film Al-Nakba.

Archival image used in Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe (2008) dir. Rawan Damen

This four-part series from Al Jazeera explores not just the establishment of Israel and the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 but it begins in the centuries prior, laying the context and groundwork for the establishment of the state and ensuing violence. It continues through the 19th, 20th centuries, up to the early 2000’s. While it doesn’t get to our current and present day, it showcases how the Nakba is ongoing. Intellectuals, historians and eye-witnesses provide the central narrative of the series and their words are accompanied by archive material and documents, many only recently released for the first time.
This series is often considered essential viewing for those learning about this history for the first time.

Available on YouTube.

 

Promotional image for My Palestine

My Palestine (2021) dir. Lubna Dajani

The war of 1948 changed the lives of Palestinians forever. My Palestine is the story of how they were living, what it was like to go to school there, what they played in the ‘hara’ or playgrounds. The story is told by the people who were born and grew up there before 1948. They then take us through the war that forced them to leave their homes and changed their lives forever.
My Palestine commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Nakba and its impact on those who lived through it.

Available on YouTube.

 

A man and a boy walk through a field carrying parts of an easel from the film Ismail.

Film still from Ismail

Ismail (2013) dir. Nora Alsharif

Inspired by a day in the life of Palestinian painter Ismail Shammout and based on a story written by the director’s father, Ismail tells the story of a young man struggling to support his parents after their expulsion to a refugee camp in 1948 by the Israeli forces.
Despite the distressing conditions he holds on to his dream of going to Rome to learn painting. One day, after selling cakes at the train station with his little brother, they heedlessly enter a minefield. As Ismail faces death, and in his struggle to save himself and his brother, we discover his true spirit.

Available on YouTube.

 

Two images overlapping show a street in Palestine currently and in the past, from the film Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba.

Film Still from Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba

Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, And So Was the Nakba (2017) dir. Razan AlSalah

Oum, a Palestinian grandmother returns to her hometown Haifa through Google Streetview, today, the only way she can see Palestine.
In this experimental short film, filmmaker Razan AlSalah channels glitch aesthetics and digital erasure in a subversion of the physical borders and checkpoints imposed by the Israeli occupation.

Available on Vimeo.

 

An image of an older man holding a photograph of his parents wearing traditional Palestinian clothing from the film Stories of the Nakba: 75 Years Later.

Film still from Stories of the Nakba: 75 Years Later

Stories of the Nakba: 75 Years later (2023) dir. Rania Mustafa & Fadia Alagha

Produced by the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton, New Jersey, this short documentary features the stories and lived experiences of local Palestinians who lived through the Nakba.

Available on YouTube.

 

An image of an older man in a black and white Palestinian keffiyeh and long dark coat, walking while holding a newspaper, from the film My Very Private Map.

Film still from My Very Private Map

My Very Private Map (1998) dir. Sobhi al-Zobaidi

Filmmaker Sobhi al-Zobaidi’s first personal film, produced on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. A personal journey into the memory of Palestinian refugees.

Available on Vimeo.

 

An image of a boy looking at a metal water tap from the film Everyday Nakba.

Film still from Everyday Nakba

Everyday Nakba (2011) dir. Mohammad Al-Azza

In Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, water flows through the pipes only once every few weeks. This short chronicles everyday life without water. It depicts one way that the Nakba isn’t just an event that is remembered and commemorated but how it is actually ongoing.

Available on Vimeo.

A selection of these films can also be watched for free through our Palestinian Voices online platform for the next week.