fara was a classic independent film success story.
Darin J. Sallam’s low-budget drama, set in 1948, at the start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, premiered in Toronto last year before touring a slate of international festivals with sold-out screenings in Rome, Busan, Gothenburg and Lyon. Critics loved the film, praising the story of fiery Farha, a 14-year-old girl living in a small Palestinian village who struggles with her society’s patriarchal restrictions on young women. When Israeli forces enter the city – in a military action that has seen more than 700,000 Palestinians displaced and dozens of Palestinian towns and villages wiped off the map – Farha’s father locks him in a room to bring her to safety. From inside, she sees Israeli soldiers committing an atrocity against civilians.
The festival is buzzing fara led to a worldwide deal on Netflix through sales group Picture Tree International. And this year, at the start of awards season, Jordan picked the film to represent the country in the race for the 2023 Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category.
Then came the backlash.
“It was November 29, 48 hours before the film was released on Netflix [on Dec. 1]Sallam recalls. her and her fara producers Deema Azar and Ayah Jardaneh had just arrived in the United States to launch farathe Oscar campaign. “As soon as we landed we opened our phones and there was an explosion of emails, messages, missed calls, social media posts.”
Most were mean. Some have called Sallam a “terrorist Muslim”, a “Nazi” or worse. They accused his film of peddling lies about the history of the Israeli military and the Middle East. An online petition has been started demanding that Netflix drop the film. Another called on people to downgrade fara on IMDB.
Several prominent Israelis joined the pile.
“Goodbye Netflix! Supporting the fake, anti-Israel film ‘Farha’ is unacceptable,” Jewish author and photographer Laura Ben-David tweeted, noting that she was canceling her Netflix subscription in protest. On Instagram, Israeli model Nataly Dadon called on her followers to follow suit and cancel Netflix, citing the purpose of fahra was to stir up hatred of the Jewish people.
“It was before the movie was on Netflix, so no one could watch it yet,” says Sallam. “But maybe two hours into the IMDB petition, we saw about 500, then 700, then thousands of people logging in and starring the movie. We were in shock.
Then the politicians got involved. Israeli Culture Minister Chili Tropper accused the film of wrongly equating the actions of Israeli soldiers in 1948 with those of the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Outgoing Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, condemned Netflix for deciding to release the film, which he said was created under “a false pretense”. [to] incite against Israeli soldiers. He suggested that Israel withdraw public funding from the Al Saraya Theater in Jaffa if it goes ahead with its plan to screen the film.
“Suddenly there were a lot of articles repeating the same things in the Israeli press and media, it looked a lot like an organized thing,” says producer Deema Azar. “The film had been out for over a year, going around the world, winning awards, showing everywhere. And then, just before Netflix’s release, at the height of the Oscars campaign, it happens. It didn’t seem like a coincidence.
The backlash focuses almost entirely on the single short scene of fahra in which Israeli soldiers are shown murdering a civilian family. But some have also objected to the film’s structure, saying showing a teenage girl in hiding deliberately evokes the story of Anne Frank and invites viewers to compare Israelis to Nazis.
Sallam tells THR the whole movie, including the violent scene, is based on stories she’s heard all her life, “my mother, my grandparents, people who lived through the Nakba,” she says, using the term, meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic, used by Palestinians to describe the events of 1948. fahra,” she says. “But all of them are real.”
Sallam, in fact, says the incident shown in the film is “very small compared to what happened historically.[It is] a small way for me to pay tribute to all the people who died and all those who lost people at the time.
She notes that although there are many films “being made about what is happening in Palestine now”, there are no other films made in 1948, “during this very specific event which has been the source of so many problems, and not just in the Arab world. ”
Exactly how many Palestinians died during the events of 1948 and how that is the subject of furious historical debate. Israeli director Alon Schwarz has faced major backlash this year over his documentary Angerwhich uses eyewitness accounts and taped confessions of Israeli soldiers at the time to document the alleged Nakba massacre of Palestinians in a Mediterranean coastal village.
“It’s surreal to me that people can deny the Nakba,” says Sallam, whose family fled Palestine to Jordan in 1948. “Because to deny the Nakba is to deny my very existence.”
Netflix declined to comment on the film or the backlash, only noting in an email to THR that Fahra was “an acquisition” and not a Netflix Original.
“We haven’t contacted Netflix but their response has been very clear because the movie is on their platform, they screened it, which means a lot to us,” says fahra producer Ayah Jardaneh. “It meant huge support for us. We are grateful for their bravery.
If the goal of Fahra’s opponents was to prevent people from seeing the film, it seems to have backfired. The December 1 screening at the Al Saraya Theater in Jaffa went ahead as planned. Since its Netflix arc, the film’s IMDB rating has rebounded – it’s currently at 8.6 out of 10.
“We are overwhelmed by the support the film is receiving around the world and are grateful to everyone who is doing their part to stand up against this attack and ensure the film is talked about and seen,” the filmmakers said in a statement. . “The film exists, we exist and we will not be silenced.”
fahra screens at the Park Avenue Screening Room in New York on Friday, December 9 at 2 p.m. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
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‘Farha’ Filmmakers On Social Media Against Jordanian Oscar Nominee: ‘It Looked A Lot Like An Organized Thing’ – Deadline