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Netflix: The Palestinian documentaries streaming in October

From a haunting account of surviving Israeli interrogation to a detailed look at life in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, here's what has caught our eye on Netflix
Children of Shatila gives viewers an insight into the difficulties of refugee life (Screengrab)

Netflix is set to release a trove of Palestinian films later this month, in a collection titled Palestinian Stories

Award-winning filmmakers, including Elia Suleiman and Basil Khalil, among others, will have their works featured on the streaming platform. 

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The themes explored in the 32 movies and documentaries centre on the Palestinian experience under occupation, in exile, and the psychological impact of political instability.

The collection was curated by Front Row Films Entertainment, a leading film distribution company in the Middle East and North Africa. 

The decision by Netflix to showcase Palestinian cinema has received widespread praise online, with many sharing their own recommendations for what to watch.

Here is Middle East Eye's pick of the documentaries to watch in the collection.

Ghost Hunting (2017)

Inspired by his own experiences, this documentary film is directed by Raed Andoni and explores the haunting memories of being interrogated at al-Moskobiya, Israel’s main interrogation centre. Andoni was jailed at the facility when he was 18.

The film won a best documentary award in 2017 at both the Berlin and Yerevan International Film Festivals.

Andoni follows a number of ex-prisoners, from a wide array of backgrounds, as they recreate the investigation centre in an empty warehouse in Ramallah and re-enact their interrogations, bringing to light their memories of pain and survival, detailing the interrogation techniques used, including physical and verbal abuse, and speaking about the psychological toll of imprisonment.

Children of Shatila (1998)

Children of Shatila, a documentary by Mai Masri, depicts the reality of life in a refugee camp, as seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Farah and 12-year-old Issa. 

The documentary is set in Beirut’s Palestinian Shatila refugee camp, where the children are given a camera to film their daily experiences.

In some of the most notable scenes, viewers can witness the pair interview their grandparents about being expelled from their homes in Palestine.

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Inside the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon (AFP)

The Shatila camp was originally established as a temporary refuge for Palestinians forcefully displaced during the establishment of Israel in 1948, an event known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe”. The camp is infamous for being the site of a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Phalangist militias, who were allowed into the site by Israeli soldiers.

Despite the challenges the children experience living in the camp, they remain hopeful and talk freely about their dreams and ambitions. 

Frontiers of Dreams and Fears (2001)

Another offering by Mai Masri, Frontiers of Dreams and Fears also explores the themes of displacement and conflict.

The documentary focuses on the relationship between Mona and Manar, two teenage girls who manage to communicate and befriend each other despite being many miles apart. 

Mona, who was born in the Shatila refugee camp, and Manar, who lives in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, become pen pals and speak about the similarities and differences in their lives in each camp.

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Palestinian director Mai Masri (AFP)

They manage to stay in touch through email, and in doing so they provide the viewer with a glimpse into their dreams and hopes.

The pair eventually meet at the fence that separates them at the Lebanon-Israel border. 

Throughout the documentary, the girls express a shared dream of returning to their common homeland in Palestine.

It was filmed during the Second Intifada, and Masri touches upon the impact the uprising was having on the girls and others living in refugee camps.

Other films coming to Netflix as part of the collection include Divine Intervention (2002), a comedy about Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, and A Drowning Man (2017), a short film about a Palestinian refugee trapped in Greece as he tries to seek refuge in Europe

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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