— by WILLIAM STERR —
This is the true story of a young Palestinian girl who lived through the assault on and clearing of her village in Palestine during war in 1948. That war occurred after the UN decision to give half of the British Mandate (itself created by the League of Nations after WWI) for the creation of a Jewish state. In neither case were the wishes of the occupants of Palestine accepted. The United States, itself created through genocide, ethnic cleansing, and mass enslavement, was the first nation to recognize the new State of Israel.
The story begins with two young girls, Farha (Karam Taher) and her friend Farida (Tala Gammoh), gathering water and figs near a stream. The Palestinian village where they live does not value education for girls, and Farha wants to attend school in the city. Her father (Ashraf Barhom – “The Stranger”), the village mayor, is a traditionalist, preferring that she marry and settle into the accepted role of a wife and mother. But Farha is strong-willed and finally gets his permission to attend the equivalent of middle school.
But on a larger scale things are not well. Palestinian villages throughout the area are being attacked and cleared of their residents. Those who do not flee die. Some of the villagers meet with Farha father, and she overhears their conversation. However, her father believes other Arabs will come to their rescue, and will not join the younger, more militant men.
The next day Farha is sharing her good news about schooling with Farida when the sounds of artillery, rifles, and machine guns announce their village is under attack. Soon everyone is running in terror as a loudspeaker warns them to either flee or face death. Most do flee, but Farha chooses to stay with her father. What follows illustrates her personal witness of an unspeakable crime against humanity and a stunning betrayal of her love and trust.
This is a poignant dramatization of one eye-witness account of the Nakba (Arab for “catastrophe”) which befell thousands of Palestinians in hundreds of villages during the ethnic cleansing during the formation of the State of Israel. Written and directed by Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam (“The Parrot”) this recounting of one of countless tragic events presents us with a teenager’s hope for the future. We see traditional life in a typical 1940s village, with its joys and restrictions, at a time of momentous change. The photography and settings are gorgeous, and each actor portrays his or her character with skill.
Other stories of this period have recently been filmed, including the excellent “Tantura,” a documentary which chronicles the same sort of cleansing and one Israeli’s attempt to bring it to light. While scholars have long known about what really happened in these villages, thanks to documents and accounts such as Farha’s, the general public has a very different view thanks to effective propaganda and campaigns to dismiss such accounts as being anti-semitic. “Farha” itself is currently the target of such a campaign.
This is one of a growing number of films, plays (such as “My Name is Rachel Corrie”), and books that are informing people world-wide about a generally forgotten or ignored period in Middle Eastern history – a period that continues to this day. Everyone who considers themselves to be students of history, or believes we can better understand today if we know what happened yesterday, should see this film.
“Farha” is the Jordanian Entry in the International Film Division, 95th Annual Academy Awards.
Runtime: One hour, 32 minutes
Availability: VOD – Netflix
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