“The Present” is a short film about one mundane incident in the context of daily life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. There is no physical violence, although the threat of violence is continually in the air. “The Present” is available free on Netflix. Watch it and share it with your friends. Read more…
The Present is an Oscar nominated short film directed by Farah Nabulsi and co-written by Nabulsi and Hind Shoufani, about a father and daughter in the Israeli-occupied West Bank trying to buy a wedding anniversary gift. The cast is led by Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri. It was released on Netflix on 18 March 2021, and has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film.
There is very little dialogue in the film – a bit of Arabic, a bit of Hebrew and a bit of English. (Palestinians in the West Bank often refuse to speak Hebrew at the checkpoint as it is a kind of non violent resistance to the occupation. They prefer to speak to their occupiers in English.)
There are about 13 million Palestinians living within 150 miles of Jerusalem. About a quarter of them live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. The rest live scattered about – inside Israel, in Gaza or as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Although filmed around Bethlehem, this film is emblematic of the daily experience for Palestinians living anywhere in the West Bank.
Every morning Yousef, rises before dawn to join hundreds of other Palestinians in an inhuman crush of who are trying to go to work each day on the Israeli side of the wall.
This first scene is not a reconstruction. It was filmed live at “Checkpoint 300” separating Bethlehem from East Jerusalem. For thousands of Palestinians, it is a stressful, demeaning daily experience. (CTIP has done it a couple of times and it is not fun even for privileged foreigners with their passports).
However, the rest of the film is about what Yousuf does on his day off.
He sleeps in a bit, and then takes his daughter to nearby Betunyia, another town in the Occupied West Bank, to buy a present for his wife.
But to get from his home to the store in Beitunia, he has to cross one of the many checkpoints which Israel uses to separate various “Palestinian” areas in the West Bank. (see map). Actually he has to cross it twice – coming and going. Each time is a humiliating, stressful ordeal.
The actual story is banal. A tiny incident. One might call it “One day in the life of Yusef”.
The barely disguised racism of the Israeli soldiers makes for uncomfortable viewing, as does the effort Yusuf has to make to remain polite and unintimidated in the face of their attempt to humiliate him. But it corresponds perfectly to scenes CTIP has witnessed dozens of times during many trips to Israel/Palestine.
This is a movie that should be shared. I hope director Farah Nabulsi will turn her considerable talent to examine the equally difficult, humiliating and frustrating lives of other Palestinians – in East Jerusalem, inside Israel, in Gaza and in refugee camps in the neighbouring arab countries.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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