Amid much pressure from the Zionist lobby, streaming giant Netflix finally released the film Farha, a Jordanian film set in 1948 conceptualizing on Nakba (The Palestinian Catastrophe), the horrible ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist Israelis.
The film is rare portrayal of true events told by Jordanian Arabs about Palestinian Arabs on a major Western entertainment platform. Zionist forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and captured 78% of historic Palestine in 1948 Nakba.
The protagonist of film is 14-year-old Palestinian Arab Muslim girl named Farha, who wants to get an education in the city with her best friend Fareeha. Her father, the village mayor, is reluctant to acquiesce to her demands, and instead hopes to find a suitor for her. Her progressive uncle however, convinces her father to send her to the city for further education.
Farha’s character is constructed through the lens of women empowerment, where she is given agency to choose her gendered transition to education. She receives her enrollment letter but her happiness is short lived. Her village is attacked, and to protect Farha, her father locks her inside the storage room of their house.
The story then on revolves around the tiny storage room which becomes a huge allegory for how claustrophobic the Palestinian land has become for them. It depicts significant symbolism capturing the dispossession from safe spaces of their homes and losing “homeliness” to alienation, and Zionist terror.
Farah remains in the storage room for an indefinite time, rummaging through food grains, experiencing fierce firing outside, peering through peepholes and muddied windows. She witnesses the birth of a baby and the murder of an innocent family at the hands of Israeli Defense Forces through the peephole.
We can see the tragedy rolling out at the hands of IDF by simply looking at her face. The director’s deliberate creative decision to fix the camera at her expression makes the Palestinian struggle visible in an artistic way. The film captures the microcosm of a greater tragedy unfolding in a defenseless village of Palestine.
Farah finds a pistol and bullets in a sack of grain, which she uses to unlock the nailed door. It is another allegory depicting asymmetric power relations in the Palestinian resistance against much more powerful well-armed Zionist enemy.
An interesting Arab cultural depiction in the film is the mayor being called ‘Abu Farha‘ (Father of Farha). Here we see the cultural roots of Arab feminism being played on-screen. It is a clever representation of voicing the marginalized Palestinian identity rooted in gender relations which is dominated by the settler colonial identity of Israel.
The film is a brave attempt at fostering Palestinian collectivity in constrained contexts of dispersion, siege and dispossession. Farha’s stone-made house serves as a ground for claiming “belonging”, both figuratively and materially. The constant anxiety Farha goes through when an IDF soldier immanently intrudes in her home rendering personal space claustrophobic and uncomfortable is obvious. And yet her belonging to her village remains.
Discrimination on racial basis is embedded in power relations, but we witness extreme asymmetry of power relations when the Islamophobic acts of IDF rendered an entire family lifeless including a young mother who just gave birth before Israeli soldiers intruded in Farha’s abandoned home while she was locked inside the storage room.
The film is much needed alternative discourse on Palestinian struggles captured through camera lens by an Arab.