Since the beginning of the new century, the entire Middle Eastern area has seen an escalation of tensions, in particular those connected to the decades-long conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). A very long series of dramatic and sadly known events which, in addition to the more general social and economic repercussions on the population, caused a slowdown in local film production as well as cooperation initiatives between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers (think of Route 181. Fragments d’un voyage en Palestine-Israël, from 2003, an important documentary signed by the Israeli director Eyal Sivan and the founder of Palestinian cinema Michel Khleifi, which retraced the virtual borders traced in 1948, or the birth of the State of Israel).
On the other hand, now well-known and internationally appreciated authors such as Rashid Masharawi (b.1962) and Elia Suleiman (b.1960) have continued to direct and produce films (often thanks to European co-productions), albeit with approaches and registers very different expressives, especially with regard to the ways in which to represent the difficult context.
Active in Gaza since 1993 and then in Ramallah also as a producer, Masharawi has always been inspired by everyday reality for his fictional stories and characters, often as real as they are symbolic. If in Waiting (2005) he explicitly plays with the boundaries between documentary and fiction, calling on the scene of real refugees, in Eid milad Laila (2008, known as Laila’s birthday) he tells the day of a former judge (the famous actor Mohamed Bakri) forced for economic reasons to improvise as a taxi driver among the chaotic streets of Rāmallāh; most recently, in Falastine stereo (2013, known as Palestine stereo), the story of two brothers who dream of emigrating to Canada, the director’s ironic streak has taken on the openly surreal accents typical of the films of directors of the ‘diaspora’, who have long been exiled in various parts of the world.
According to PETWITHSUPPLIES, Suleiman (the best known among them filmmakers since the mid-nineties) filmed in 2009 The time that remains (The Time That Remains), autobiographical journey that weaves episodes, more or less successful, family memory and historical memory, from 1948 to the present, alternating sarcasm and humor, sometimes even nonsense, with some unforgettable scenes such as the one in which the protagonist (Suleiman himself, also an actor) climbs with a pole the long wall built between 2002 and 2006 by Israel to separate their territories from the Palestinian ones (a wall which has since been one of the most recurring narrative sites in Palestinian cinema, both documentary and fictional).
The sense of constant precariousness of life in the Occupied Territories, the dramatic reality of refugee camps, the continuous state of war and emergency, are often the narrative red thread for many Palestinian authors, inside and outside the borders. Its directors include Kamal Aljafari (b. 1972) and Hany Abu Hassad (b. 1961). The first with Port of memory (2009) evokes the now ancient fear of Palestinians of having their home requisitioned. The second, after having told with Paradise now (2005), albeit with some schematism, the story of two Palestinians attracted by the ‘heroic’ siren of fundamentalist terrorism, eight years later and with mostly local funding, he directed Omar (2013), a refined and dramatic thriller that, by mixing a political and a love double game, sees three great friends and a woman opposing each other. The two films received great international attention: Omar won the Un certain regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, and both were nominated for an Academy Award.
Continuing a trend that began in the early nineties, numerous female directors have also been able to affirm in the last decade a precise female gaze on the events of the area and on the role, both private and public, of women in that culture. Here we recall only a few films by two authors: Milh hadha al-bahr (2008, known as Salt of this sea) and Lamma shoftak (2013, known as When I saw you) by Annemarie Jacir (n. 1974), director and also writer living in exile in Jordan; the intense portrait of several female generations composed by the Palestinian director and screenwriter Suha Arraf (b. 1969) with Villa Touma (2014).