Films that matter: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Even after having poured over the historical “facts” about the Arab-Israeli conflict and studied countless maps, I still cannot fully grasp the reality of it. The written word seems too flat and emotionless to be able to encompass a decades long struggle so complex, touching several generations and changing the course of so many individual lives. In order to gain a feeling for the issues, and most importantly to understand how this conflict affects people, I find film helpful. Here are a few great films I’ve seen:


A great portrayal of a thing we don’t often see in our North American mainstream media, namely non-violent protest against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. This topic is highly relevant because not only do these protests seem to work, or at least force the Israeli government to change some plans (such as the location of the security fence, as was seen in Budrus), the protests are experiencing a stronger-than-usual crackdown as a result of the turmoil in the region and the success of the Arab Spring.

Lemon Tree (Etz Limon)

Fictional, featuring many of Israel and Palestine’s most famous actors. The story of a Palestinian widow who must defend her lemon plantation when a new Israeli Defense Minister moves next door to her and threatens to have her lemon grove torn down. Fantastic portrayal of the effect a border can have on those who reside on either side of it.

Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land

About the US mainstream media portrayal of the conflict and the strong Israeli lobby in the USA. This topic is essential to be in the know about for anyone trying to understand the reality of the US-brokered peace process.

Occupation 101

Documentary on the history and current reality of the Occupied Territories and the conflict more generally.

Paradise Now

Fictional, a story of two Palestinian men on their journey to becoming suicide bombers. An interesting vantage point in the quest for understanding terrorism.

Gaza Hospital

Documentary of a hospital that served as refugee shelter in Beirut during Lebanon’s long civil war. This is a fantastic film not only from the viewpoint of history and politics, but it is also the most visually appealing documentary I’ve ever seen. Amazing cinematography.

Also appealing stylistically is Waltz with Bashir

This is an absolutely amazing movie, or more accurately a work of art, about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Its music is haunting and beautiful and it is made in a unique cartoon mode that allows the beautiful poetic narrative to thrive without being overpowered by the visual.

Another film about the same subject…Lebanon

A film shot almost entirely through the viewfinder of a tank, this is a unique and realistic portrayal of war. It follows a group of young Israeli army recruits as they surge into Lebanon during the 1982 war. Again, amazing cinematography.
A brief disclaimer…most of these films are written and shot from the viewpoint of people supporting the Palestinian cause or portraying Palestinians themselves. I have not yet explored much Israeli cinema about the conflict, and would be interested in finding out about these types of films. Please comment if you know of any Israeli film about the conflict (or any other films that should be on this list). Because, after all, a conflict can and must always be seen from more than one side.
Images courtesy of IMDb.

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