Many productions and publications have covered the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland by Israeli forces – none have done it like Farha. The film looks at the 1948 tragedy through the eyes and ears of Farha, a 14-year-old girl with ambitions beyond the gender restrictions of her community. 

Farha is forced into hiding by her father when the fighting breaks out. While waiting for her father in a locked pantry, she witnesses the Israeli Defense Forces commit countless atrocities, including the execution of a Palestinian family. 

The film is Jordanian filmmaker Darin Sallam’s directorial debut and the Jordanian Oscars entry for 2023. 

Farha is based on the true story of a refugee who fled to Syria after witnessing the war

Farha tells the true story of a girl named Radieh, who was hidden by her father when the 1948 war started. From her hiding place, Radieh witnessed the displacement of her people before fleeing to Syria. 

In Syria, she relayed her story to Darin Sallam’s mother, who shared the narrative with Darin. Sallam told Arab News:

“The story traveled over the years to reach me. It stayed with me. When I was a child, I had this fear of closed, dark places and I kept thinking of this girl and what happened to her. So, when I grew up and became a filmmaker, I decided that this would be my debut feature.”

Shooting the harrowing events – especially the killing of the Palestinian family, including a baby and two small children – took a toll on the cast and crew: it brought back memories of painful times in their ancestors’ lives. Actress Sameera Asir told the outlet:

“Some of the crew members were crying behind the monitor while shooting, remembering their families and their stories, and the stories they heard from their grandparents.”

Sallam told Arab News that she made the film to tell the truth – not to advance a political agenda. She said: “I’m not afraid to tell the truth. We need to do this because films live and we die. This is why I decided to make this film. Not because I’m political, but because I’m loyal to the story that I heard.”

Israeli authorities have criticized the film, calling it a fictional narrative

Predictably, Israeli authorities have criticized Farha, calling it a fictional narrative. “It’s crazy that Netflix decided to stream a movie whose sole purpose is to create a false pretense and incite against Israeli soldiers,” Israel’s outgoing minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said in a statement. 

Lieberman announced he would explore withdrawing state funding from the Al Saraya theater, which screened Farha. Hili Tropper, Israel’s culture minister, accused Farha of depicting ‘lies and libels’ and labeled Al Saraya’s screening of the film a ‘disgrace’. 

Mahmoud Abo Arisheh, Al Saraya’s manager, defended the theater: “As for the public’s response, Saraya’s supporters once again proved to be many. We are committed to defending our right to exist and to express ourselves. We are committed to freedom of art, all art.”

Farha has faced coordinated downvoting of its ratings online and sparked a campaign urging people to unsubscribe from Netflix. The anger by Israeli officials seems misplaced as the film depicts incidents that happened in 1948 – historians agree that Israeli soldiers killed Palestinian men, women, and children. 

The movie’s production team released a statement condemning ‘all the accusations to discredit Farha’. “These attempts to silence our voices as Semite/Arabs and as women filmmakers to dehumanize us and prevent us from telling our stories, our narrative and our truth are against any freedom of speech,” their statement read. 

The filmmakers also thanked people who’d supported the film: “We are overwhelmed by the amount of support the film is receiving globally and are grateful to everyone who is doing their part to stand up against this attack and ensure the film is spoken about and seen.”

“All the campaigning against Farha will not deter us from our goal, which is to share the film and the story it tells with audiences worldwide. The film exists, we exist, and we will not be silenced.