Every year for our annual Arab Women in the Arts showcase, we choose one talented filmmaker as our highlighted artist whose work we discuss, celebrate and showcase as our opening night event. This year’s artist is the incredibly talented Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir. Her debut feature film, Salt of this Sea, will be opening this year’s showcase in New York City on April 6 at Nitehawk Cinema – Williamsburg. It will also be shown in San Francisco on April 9 at the Roxie Theatre and it will be available online. In the lead up to this event, we wanted to explore Annemarie Jacir’s incredible and prolific career.
As of 2023 Annemarie Jacir has written, directed and produced over sixteen films in total. All three of her feature films were selected as Palestine’s Oscar Entry for Foreign Language Film. She has served as a jury member to numerous festivals including in Cannes (2018), Berlinale (2020) and Sundance (2023) and is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and the Asia Pacific Screen Academy.
But where did it all begin? Annemarie spent her early years in Saudi Arabia, where she lived until the age of sixteen, moving between Bethlehem and Riyadh. She later moved to the United States to attend university. There, she majored in World Literature and Political Studies and she began working in the theater; first in set design and then writing and directing plays. Annemarie worked numerous jobs until she found her voice in filmmaking. She has worked as a telephone operator, radio DJ, English teacher, news camerawoman, museum researcher, and even a swimming instructor. Her career in cinema began as an assistant on various sets and as assistant editor. She worked in a literary agency reading scripts in Los Angeles before attending Columbia University in New York to obtain her MFA degree in Film. After years of shuttling back and forth between projects, Annemarie returned to the Arab world moving back to Palestine.
Her film like twenty impossibles (2003) was the first Arab short film in history to be an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival and continued to break ground when it went on to be a finalist for the Academy Awards. The film won over 15 awards at International festivals including Best Film at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Institute Du Monde Arabe Biennale, Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival, and IFP/New York. The film tells the story of a Palestinian film crew who avert a closed checkpoint by taking a remote side road but as the political landscape unravels, the passengers are slowly taken apart by the mundane brutality of military occupation.
In 2007, Annemarie Jacir shot the first feature film by a Palestinian woman director, the acclaimed Salt of this Sea, the story of a working-class American woman whose parents were Palestinian refugees, making her first return to her family’s homeland. Her second work to debut in Cannes Film Festival, Salt of this Sea, went on to win the FIPRESCI Critics Award, and garnered fourteen other international awards including Best Film in Milan and Traverse City. Salt of this Sea starred poet Suheir Hammad alongside Saleh Bakri in his first role on screen. After completing production, Annemarie was banned from returning to Palestine and relocated to Amman, Jordan for several years until she was able to return home.
Her second feature When I Saw You won Best Asian Film at the Berlinale, Best Arab Film in Abu Dhabi and Best Film in Amiens, Phoenix, and Olympia, and garnered a nomination at the Asian Pacific Screen Awards. It takes place in 1967 at a refugee camp in Jordan. A young boy named Tarek lives there with his mother and he longs to reunite with his father who is missing in the wake of the Six Day War so he sets out on a journey to try to return home. It Notably, the film’s production was entirely Arab-financed with all Palestinian producers marking a new trend in Arab cinema.
Her last feature film Wajib (2017) won 36 international awards including Best Film in Mar Del Plata, Dubai, Amiens, DC Film Festival and Kerala and jury mention at the London BFI Festival. The film is about a father and his estranged son who must come together to hand deliver his daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest as per local Palestinian custom.
Working in both fiction and documentary, Annemarie Jacir also shot and produced the documentary Until When, an in-depth portrait of the lives of several families living in the Deheisha refugee camp as well as several other films. She collaborated with Algerian-French filmmaker Nassim Amouache on A Few Crumbs for the Birds, which she also shot as cinematographer, a documentary sketch of the lives of a handful of men and women eking out a living in the Jordanian town of Ruwayshed, a small-time oil-smuggling entrepot that’s the last stop on the road to Iraq ( (Official Selection Venice International Film Festival, Best film Montpellier, Press prize Clermont Ferrand).
Annemarie Jacir was named one of Filmmaker magazine‘s 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema, won the Zaki Gordan Award for Excellence in Screenwriting, the Kathryn Parlan Screenwriting Award, and the Andrew Sarris Award for artistic achievement. She is recipient of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s (ADC) Jack Shaheen Scholarship Award, a Jerome Foundation Media Arts grant, a New York State Council on the Arts distribution grant, and the Paul Robeson Fund. In 2011, renown Chinese director Zhang Yimou selected her to be his first protégée as part of the Rolex Arts Initiative.
With a commitment to teaching, training and hiring locally, Annemarie also curates, actively promoting independent cinema in the region. Founder of Philistine Films, an independent production company focusing on productions related to the Arab world, she collaborates regularly as an editor, screenwriter and producer with fellow filmmakers. Providing support and mentorship, Philistine Films has served as a launching pad for Arab filmmakers beginning their careers in cinema.
She has taught at Columbia University, Bethlehem University, and Birzeit University and in refugee camps in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. She teaches screenwriting and works as a freelance editor as well as consultant. Annemarie is also a mentor for eQuinoxe Screenwriting Lab, the Doha Film Institute and the Oxbelly Filmmakers Lab. As a screenwriter, she also collaborated on Hany Abu Assad’s The Idol and wrote Nafas for Mira Nair.
She co-founded and was chief curator of the groundbreaking Dreams of a Nation cinema project dedicated to the promotion of Palestinian cinema. In 2003, she organized and curated the largest traveling film festival in Palestine, which included the screening of archival Palestinian films from Revolution Cinema, screening for the first time on Palestinian soil. She is a founding member of the Palestinian Filmmakers’ Collective, based in Palestine as well as Alwan for the Arts, a cultural organization devoted to North African and Middle Eastern art. She has served as a jury member for the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (Cph:dox), Karlovy Vary (Competition), Thessaloniki, the Alexandria Film Festival, the Damascus International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival, Osians Festival, as well as for the Cinecolor Award, Argentina.
In May 2022, she directed an episode of the Hulu hit series Ramy. In September 2022, she was granted an honorary doctorate by Artois University in France for her contribution to cinema.
Annemarie’s importance to Palestinian cinema really cannot be overstated. As a filmmaker, educator, curator and advocate, she has truly laid the groundwork to help Palestinian artists thrive and bring their incredible work to the world. This importance is the reason we have chosen Annemarie Jacir as our highlighted artist for the 3rd edition of Arab Women in the Arts. We hope you join us in April to celebrate her work alongside us! For passes, tickets and more information about the showcase, please visit arabfilm.us/women.