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Discovering Gaza with Five Remarkable Films

posted on: Feb 28, 2024

Gaza. Photo: Wikimedia

By: Ziyan Qutub / Arab America Contributing Writer 


Located in an area of consistent battle and outlined by its complex sociopolitical terrain, Gaza has evolved into the main topic of film productions that confront the challenges, strength, and everyday situations met by the people who reside there. These accounts provide an understanding of the difficult circumstances the occupants face. Five of these film stories are considered exceptional and priceless documentaries that go into the depth of this situation and provide individual points of view.

“5 Broken Cameras” (2011):

Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s “5 Broken Cameras” is a touching non-fiction film that offers a close look at the life of Emad Burnat, a Palestinian peasant living through an ordeal. His village, Bil’in, is located in the West Bank, and the inhabitants are poor and under siege. The story is about Burnat’s great love for his son, Gibreel, to whom he is making this lyrical, very moving home movie. There is a lot of cruelty in “5 Broken Cameras” and humor, grace, and beauty, too. There is performance. The performance of the fishermen, the villagers, who disguise themselves as ultra-Orthodox Jews and go looking for the scent. 

“Gaza Surf Club” (2016):

Amidst the backdrop of conflict lies “Gaza Surf Club,” a truly exceptional documentary directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine. This film sheds light on the young Palestinians living in Gaza and their uncommon love for surfing. It delves deep into the futility that engulfs their lives and the marginal joy experienced in riding the waves. Over and above providing an unconventional perspective of conflict-ridden regions and how life in these places is far from ordinary, the documentary also offers a glimpse into the difficulty faced by people living in such dire straits.

“Salt of This Sea” (2008):

A gripping drama, Annemarie Jacir’s “Salt of This Sea” narrates a young Palestinian woman’s quest to find her family’s lost savings upon reclaiming her birthplace. In the process, the movie reflects Palestinians’ overall struggles for justice and compensation. The film addresses the multifaceted issue of identity through the protagonist’s journey. Moreover, “Salt of This Sea” dexterously addresses the larger political context that negatively impacts those fighting for a cause bigger than themselves.

“The Idol” (2015):

Hany Abu-Assad directs “The Idol,” a biographical drama that tells the true story of Mohammed Assaf. Assaf is a Palestinian singer who became famous after winning “Arab Idol.” “The Idol” not only celebrates the musical talent of Assaf but is also a tribute to hope and determination in the face of adversity. “The Idol” is a living document of the role of art and culture as forms of resistance, offering eyes into human transformation and the unprecedented position of human expression.

“Eyes of a Thief” (2014):

Najwa Najjar’s “Eyes of a Thief” depicts Palestinian life through the eyes of a man on a critical mission. Telling the story of a man returning to Nablus after several years in an Israeli prison, the film offers a perspective shaped intimately by the crushing political realities that have come to define the West Bank. Set in the early aughts, the narrative centers on the sudden arrival of Tareq (Khaled Abol Naga), a father and former nurse whose top priority is to see his daughter, Anna, for the first time. He can picture the moment. He’s buying her candy from a street vendor, he tells his fellow bus passenger—a Palestinian, judging that upon crossing into the Occupied Territories from Jordan, she does no such thing as slow her pace of playing Sphinx Rocks on her phone.


The combined works of these five movies give an extensive and complicated depiction of life in Gaza and produce endurance, people’s compassion for other beings, and the durability of human nature in the face of adversity. Insights into the complications and diversity of the region are treated through the power of visuals and sound. These stories create a deeper understanding of the presence of mind, strengthen others on the line, and make room for a hope that was not previously available. Hence, the reflection of life in Gaza is intertwined with the present reality and through the connection to other humans with similar problems from Gaza and beyond.