Reel Palestine returns to Cinema Akil: five films to watch

The film festival runs from January 29 to February 6 at Dubai's Cinema Akil

Maisa Abd Elhadi in ‘Huda’s Salon’, which was shot in Nazareth and Bethlehem, and is based on real-life events. H&A Production
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Reel Palestine is back. A total of 24 films, including features, documentaries and shorts, will be screened at the event this year. Back for the eighth time, the film festival, which celebrates Palestinian stories, will run from January 29 to February 6 at Cinema Akil.

'Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege'

The heart-wrenching documentary by Abdallah Al Khatib follows the story of the people of Yarmouk in Damascus, Syria. After the Syrian revolution breaks out, the Bashar Al-Assad regime besieges the Yarmouk Camp, which provides refuge to more than 100,000 Palestinians, cutting it off from the outside world. Al Khatib, a former resident of the camp, documents life under siege during that time. The film was screened at the BFI London Film Festival last year and was described by Variety as "a love letter to his fellow citizens and their humanity amidst a profoundly inhuman situation".

'Huda's Salon'

Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad's feature film Huda’s Salon was met with a warm reception at its Arab premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival.

The political thriller, which stars Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad, Ali Suliman and Samer Bisharat, is based on true events. The film tells the story of Reem, a young woman in a difficult marriage, who goes to Huda’s beauty parlour for a haircut as well as a sympathetic ear. However, her visit goes awry after Huda blackmails Reem into working for the Israeli secret service. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.


A debut feature from Darin Sallam, Farha is inspired by the real-life story of a refugee girl called Raddiyeh. “She was a girl who lived in Palestine during the Nakba,” Sallam told The National in December. “Her father locked her in the pantry [to protect her]. Her stepmother then let her out later and they both survived, making it to Syria. The father disappeared. After Raddiyeh went to Syria, she met a little girl and told her the story. That little girl was my mother.”

The film had its regional premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival and later won the Red Sea: Competition Special Mention award at the inaugural Yusr Awards, which honours a selection of films from across the Arab world, Africa and Asia. Farha had its world premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

'Al Garib / The Stranger'

This is the debut feature from Fakher Eldin, who has both written and directed The Stranger. Set in the occupied Golan Heights, the film stars Ashraf Barhom and Mohammad Bakri. It tells the story of a desperate unlicensed doctor going through an existential crisis, when he encounters a wounded man during the war in Syria. The film won the Edipo Re Award for Inclusion at the Venice Film Festival last year. It was also Palestine's Oscars submission for this year.

'They were Nomads'

Directed by Carlo Concina and Cristina Maurelli, this documentary short tells the story of the Bedouin minority living between Jerusalem and Jericho in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and who suffer from the loss of their identity. The film tells story of a community that has no voice, focusing on the point of view of those who are considered to be second class citizens. The film won Audience Award at the Boston Palestine Film Festival 2020.

More information at Reel Palestine. Tickets available at Cinema Akil.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 9:54 AM