Prominent Directors of Palestinian Films

Prominent Directors of Palestinian Films

Hany Abu Assad

Hany Abu-Assad

Hany Abu-Assad (Arabic: هاني أبو أسعد‎; born 11 October 1961) is a Dutch-Palestinian-Israeli film director. He has received two Academy Award nominations: in 2006 for his film Paradise Now, and again in 2013 for his film Omar.

Abu-Assad was born to a Palestinian Muslim family, in the city of Nazareth, Israel in 1961. He immigrated to the Netherlands in 1981, where he studied aerodynamics in Haarlem and worked as an airplane engineer for several years. Abu-Assad was inspired after watching a film by Michel Khleifi to pursue a career in cinema. Abu-Assad initially started as a TV producer working on commissions for Channel 4 and the BBC. He founded Ayloul Film Productions in 1990 with the Palestinian film-maker Rashid Masharawi.

In 1992, Abu-Assad wrote and directed his first short film, Paper House which was made for NOS Dutch television and won several international awards at film festivals in Paris and Jerusalem.

In 1998, he directed his first film, Het 14de kippetje (The Fourteenth Chick), from a script by writer Arnon Grunberg. Later films include the documentary Nazareth 2000 (2000) and the feature film Rana's Wedding (2002).

In 2006, his film Paradise Now won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and received an Oscar-nomination in the same category. In 2005 Paradise Now won the Golden Calf for best Dutch film.

His 2013 film Omar was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. where it won the Jury Prize. In 2014, Omar was the Palestinian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and was nominated for the award. The film also won the award for Best Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards

In 2014, Abu-Assad was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

In 2018, Abu-Assad joined the film jury for ShortCutz Amsterdam, an annual film festival promoting short films in Amsterdam.

Elia Suleiman

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 23:  Director Elia Suleiman attends the "7 Dias En La Habana" Photocall during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 23, 2012 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Elia Suleiman (Arabic: إيليا سليمان‎, IPA: [ˈʔiːlja sʊleːˈmaːn]; born July 28, 1960) is a Palestinian-Israeli film director and actor of Rûm Greek Orthodox origin.[1] He is best known for the 2002 film Divine Intervention (Arabic: يد إلهية‎), a modern tragic comedy on living under occupation in Palestine which won the Jury Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Elia Suleiman's cinematic style is often compared to that of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton, for its poetic interplay between "burlesque and sobriety". He is married to Lebanese singer and actress Yasmine Hamdan.

Between 1982–1993, Suleiman lived in New York City, where he co-directed: Introduction to the End of an Argument (1990) and directed Homage by Assassination, that both won numerous awards.

An experimental video film, co-directed by Jayce Salloum, Introduction to the End of an Argument critiqued the portrayal of Arabs in Western media and its effect on foreign policy by juxtaposing clips from Hollywood films, television broadcasts and cartoons with live scenes (shot by Salloum) from the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

Homage by Assassination is a "diary film" that critiques the 1991 Gulf War via the juxtaposition of multi-layered personal anecdotes and identity. The film offers a lucid portrait of what Ella Shohat and Robert Stam have termed "cultural disembodiment," manifested in "multiple failures of communication," that reflect the contradictions of a "diasporic subject."

In 1994, Suleiman moved to Jerusalem and began teaching at Birzeit University in the West Bank. He was entrusted with the task of developing a Film and Media Department at the university with funding support from the European Commission. In 2008 Elia Suleiman became a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee. He continues to guest lecture in other universities around the world.

In 1996, Suleiman directed Chronicle of a Disappearance, his first feature film. It won the Best First Film Prize at the 1996 Venice Film Festival.

In 2002, Suleiman's second feature film, Divine Intervention, subtitled, A Chronicle of Love and Pain, won the Jury Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI), also receiving the Best Foreign Film Prize at the European Awards in Rome.

The third film in his trilogy is called The Time That Remains, which competed in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Suleiman won the Black Pearl prize for best Middle Eastern narrative film at the Middle Eastern Film Festival in Abu Dhabi on October 17, 2009. The film won the Critics' Prize from the Argentinean Film Critics Association at Mar del Plata International Film Festival.

His latest film, It Must Be Heaven, competed in the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and had its North American premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

In his 1998 film, The Arab Dream ("Al Hilm Al-Arabi") Suleiman autobiographically explores issues of identity, expressing that: "I don't have a homeland to say I live in exile... I live in postmortem... daily life, daily death. Suleiman also produced a short film in 1997, entitled War and Peace in Vesoul.

In 2000, Suleiman released the 15-minute short film "Cyber Palestine" which follows a modern-day Mary and Joseph as they attempt to cross from Gaza into Bethlehem. Suleiman was part of the nine-person jury for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Annemarie Jacir

Annemarie Jacir

Annemarie Jacir (Arabic: آن ماري جاسر‎) is a Palestinian filmmaker and poet.

She has been working in independent cinema since 1998 and has written, directed and produced a number of award-winning films including Until When, A Few Crumbs for the Birds, and a Post Oslo History. She was named one of Filmmaker magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema. Her short film, like twenty impossibles, was the first Arab short film to ever be an official selection of the Cannes International Film Festival and went on to be a Student Academy Awards Finalist, winning more than 15 awards at International festivals including Best Film at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, Chicago International Film Festival, Institute Du Monde Arabe Biennale, Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival, and IFP/New York. like twenty impossibles was named one of the ten best films of 2003 by Gavin Smith of Film Comment Magazine (Editor’s Choice) is a fiction film which wryly questions artistic responsibility as a Palestinian film crew navigates various obstacles of the Israeli military occupation. In 2018, she returned to the Cannes Film Festival, this time joining the Un Certain Regard Jury, presided by Puerto Rican/American actor Benicio del Toro.

In 2007, Jacir shot the first feature film by a Palestinian woman director, Salt of this Sea, the story of an American woman whose parents were Palestinian refugees, making her first visit to her family's homeland.[2] The film, released in 2008, was Palestine's submission to the 81st Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film[3] and received many other awards and nominations including winning the Muhr Arab Award for Best Screenplay at the Dubai International Film Festival, a Cinema in Motion award at the 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival and a FIPRESCI award.

Muayad Alayan

Muayad Alayan

Muayad ALAYAN (1985, Palestine) is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem based Palestinian filmmaker and cinematographer, Muayad Alayan, was raised by parents who were master storytellers. He travelled to the States to study film in San Francisco. His graduate project, the documentary Exiles in Jerusalem (2005) won the Kodak Award. His short film debut Why Sabreen? (2009), made with and about the youth of his village, was screened and won awards at film festivals worldwide. His debut feature Love, Theft and Other Entanglements (2015) premiered in Berlin. 

Alayan and his brother Rami are co-founder of PalCine Productions which started as a collective of Palestinian filmmakers and artists coming together to produce their own audio-visual collaborations and productions. It soon expanded to offer experience and skills to other local and international productions, seeking to produce audio visual projects in Palestine. and quickly expanded to offer experience and skills to local and international productions seeking to create work in Palestine. PalCine’s projects range from documentaries and narrative films to commercials and music and educational videos. Several of its films have won international awards. Muayad has worked as a film and cinematography instructor at several academic institutions in Palestine.

Rashid Masharawi

Rashid Masharawi

Rashid Masharawi (also: "Rashid Mashrawi") (Arabic: رشيد مشهراوي‎), is a Palestinian film director, born in Gaza in 1962 to a family of refugees from Jaffa. He grew up in the Shati refugee camp.

Rashid Masharawi lives and works in Ramallah, where he founded the Cinema Production and Distribution Center in 1996 with the aim of promoting local film productions. He also sponsors a mobile cinema, which allows him to screen films in Palestinian refugee camps. Other projects include the annual Kids Film Festival and major workshops on film production and directing. Rashid Masharawi regularly organises readings and discussion forums at the Al-Matal cultural centre. With his documentaries and feature films, he has also made a name for himself as a film artist. He has received several film awards.

Cherien Dabis

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9056476d)
Filmmaker Cherien Dabis of the film "May In The Summer" poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge, on Friday, Jan., 18, 2013 in Park City, Utah
2013 Sundance Portrait - May In The Summer, Park City, USA

Cherien Dabis (born 1976)  (Arabic: شيرين دعيبس‎) is a Palestinian-American actress, director, producer, and screenwriter. She was named one of Variety magazine's 10 Directors to Watch in 2009.

Dabis was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father is a physician of Palestinian descent, and her mother is from Salt, Jordan.

Cherien grew up in a small town in Ohio, and spent many of her summers in Jordan. Cherien's father was a Palestinian refugee, and at the age of eight years, she visited Palestine for the first time. She and her family were held at the Israeli border for 12 hours, and she was strip-searched along with her sisters.  This incident would make Cherien understand "what it meant to be Palestinian". She would not return to Palestine until 20 years later.

Back in the U.S, Cherien's hometown was populated predominantly by middle-class families from German backgrounds. When she would come back from trips to the Middle East, she would be asked if there were telephones and cars back in Jordan. As a Palestinian American, Cherien refused to be seen as an outsider, and instead chose to assimilate to the culture she found herself within. However, when the Gulf War commenced in 1990, things changed for her and her family. Her father lost many of his patients, her mother was called an "Arab Bitch", and her family began receiving death threats. Although Cherien had no brothers, a rumour began that her father's "son" was fighting in Saddam Hussein's army. It is also at this time that her family was investigated by the Secret Service because of a rumour that claimed her sister had threatened to Kill George H. W. Bush, who was the president at the time.

It is following these incidents that Cherien claims she faced an identity crisis, wherein she became aware of the fact that she was an "Arab in America". These events would go on to influence her desire to create films. She was 14 years old when she realized that no one was accurately portraying the lives of Arabs in America. She saw a great need to change the way in which Arabs were portrayed in the media. Years later, she would take filmmaking at Columbia University.

Buthina Canaan Khoury

Buthina Canaan Khoury

Buthina Khoury is a Palestinian filmmaker who established Majd Production Company in Ramallah in 2000. The company's main objective is to produce documentaries about various crucial Palestinian issues. She has produced the following films: Women in Struggle (2004), Maria's Grotto (2007) and Taste the Revolution (2008).

She received her Bachelor's degree in filmmaking and photography from the Massachusetts College of Fine Arts.

Khoury worked as a camera woman, producer and coordinator covering special events in the Middle East for European TV stations in Palestine. Her company's main objective is to produce documentaries about various Palestinian issues, focusing on women's social and political problems.

Khoury won the Silver Muhr Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2007.

Mai Masri

Mai Masri

Mai Masri (Arabic: مي المصري‎; born April 2, 1959) is a Palestinian filmmaker, director and producer. Her films are primarily documentaries which focus on the real life struggles of woman and children living in the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon. She has received over 60 international awards for her films and is hailed as a pioneer in the Middle Eastern film industry.

Masri was born in Amman, Jordan on April 2, 1959. She is the daughter of Munib Masri from Nablus and an American mother from Texas. She spent her early childhood in Amman and Nablus moving to Beirut when she was in the first grade. Masri was introduced to politics early in her life through her father, Munib al-Masri. Her father was close friends with the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization including Yasser Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir who would often visit them in their home. Politics played a large role in her family as her father acted as a minister in Jordan in the 1970s.

In 1976 she visited Berkeley, California where she had attended a lecture on film theory that fascinated her and led her to pursue an education in film. She graduated from San Francisco State University in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in film production and technique. Soon after, she returned to Beirut and began making films.

Masri met her husband, Lebanese filmmaker Jean Chamoun, in 1977 while visiting Beirut on her summer break from college. The pair connected through their shared love of film making and its ability to influence people’s lives Masri then went back to San Francisco to finish her degree and returned to Beirut in 1981.  At this time the Israeli invasion of Lebanon had begun, and Masri and Chamoun had to abandon a project they were working on[5] Instead that summer the pair shot rousing footage under dangerous conditions which they would later use in their films Wild Flowers (1986), Suspended Dreams (1992), Under the Rubble (1983) and War Generation (1989). In 1986 Masri and Chamoun were married and had founded Nour Productions. The couple have two daughters, Hana and Nour. On August 9, 2017 Masri's husband Jean Chamoun passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. The pairs partnership led to the production of a total of 15 films, all of which gave voice to stories of people living under the hardships of war. Their work is praised for becoming the instrument of change and creativity which they had bonded over and set to achieve.

After their first film, Under the Rubble (1983), Masri and Chamoun bought their own equipment allowing them to produce low budget films on their own terms. They lived in Paris for a year to network outside of the Arab film industry, in order to be able to produce and distribute films abroad. The pair received their big break when the BBC commissioned War Generation for their Inside Story

Masri's pictures focus on Palestine and the Middle East and have won awards at film festivals throughout the world. Her films revolve around the lives of ordinary people who are living in bizarre times of conflict and how they manage to keep their humanity throughout the reality of their devastating situations. Her films aim to capture authenticity and as a result tell a different story to the stereotypical dehumanization and dismissing of Palestinians rights portrayed in dominant discourses.

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