Nakba Day: Movies, books and more that remember the 'catastrophe'

May 15 is a date etched into Palestinian memories and remembered to this day on screen, in print and in song

The acclaimed 2022 film Farha dramatises the events of the Nakba, Courtesy Darin J. Sallam
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Films, books and songs have been produced over the years to remember Nakba Day, ensuring that its legacy continues to be acknowledged and understood.

An event of profound loss and upheaval, May 15, 1948, is a pivotal date in Palestinian history and the “catastrophe” continues to be remembered through various forms. Here are some of the most notable:

1948 (1998)

The TV documentary by Mohammad Bakri features personal narratives and historical accounts from Palestinian survivors. They present their stories of mass displacement and the subsequent establishment of Israel. By interweaving first-hand testimonies with archival footage and historical analysis, Bakri highlights the profound impact of the Nakba on Palestinian society, culture, and identity.

Bye Bye Tiberias (2023)

The TV documentary by Lina Soualem revolves around four generations of Palestinian women, centred on Soualem's mother – Succession star Hiam Abbass. Soualem zooms in on Abbass, whose grandparents Umm Ali and Hosni were forcibly displaced from their home in Tiberias.

Generations later, Abbass grows up in Deir Hanna but leaves her village and family behind at a young age to follow her ambition of becoming an actress in Europe. Thirty years later, Soualem returns with Abbass to her native village in the Lake Tiberias area. There, she begins questioning her mother’s bold choices.

Farha (2021)

Darin J Sallam’s debut feature film tells the story of a Palestinian girl’s coming-of-age experience during the Nakba. It follows 14-year-old Farha during the period between 1947 and 1949 when more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed and more than 700,000 people were forcibly displaced. The story is inspired by the real-life experience of a refugee named Raddiyeh.

The Time That Remains (2009)

The semi-biographical film drama by Elia Suleiman gives an account of the creation of Israel from 1948 through the lens of a Palestinian family. The film is divided into four sections, blending historical drama and dark comedy to depict the impact of political events on their personal lives. Through the eyes of Suleiman's father, mother and Suleiman himself, the narrative explores themes of displacement, identity, and resilience, capturing both the absurdity and the tragedy of life under occupation in Palestine.

In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story by (2002)

Ghada Karmi’s book is a memoir of her childhood in Palestine, flight to Britain after the catastrophe and new life in north London. Born in Jerusalem, Karmi and her family were forced out of their home in 1948. They shared the fate of other Palestinians. In this moving memoir, Karmi charts their journey from Jerusalem to north London, and their struggle to put down roots in a foreign land.

Mornings in Jenin (2010)

Author Susan Abulhawa’s fictional novel follows the story of a multi-generational Palestinian family and waves in a history that spans six decades and five countries. The story starts during the Nakba in which the Abulhejas are forcibly removed from their olive-farming village of Ein Hod. They are then displaced to live in tents in the Jenin refugee camp as they struggle to rebuild. The story is told from the perspective of Amal, the youngest sibling in the Abdulheja family, whose life is dramatically altered by violence and upheaval around her.

Minor Detail (2017)

Adania Shibli's fictional novel is set across two time periods and revolves around a brutal crime committed during the summer of 1949 in Palestine, when Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, including a teenage girl, who is raped, killed and buried in the sands. Many years later, another young woman in Ramallah sets out to discover the events surrounding this heinous act, dubbed a “minor” crime in present-day, which happened 25 years to the day before she was born.

Salt Houses (2017)

Hala Alyan’s fictional novel tells the story of four generations of the Yacoubs, a Palestinian family who once lived in Jaffa until they were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces. Now living in Nablus, on the eve of daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads her daughter’s fortune in a cup of coffee grounds but does not disclose what it is she sees. Her predictions come true as the Six-Day War in 1967 forces them out of their home again and break the family apart. When Alia and her husband move to Kuwait, they are once again uprooted from their home during the Iraqi invasion in the First Gulf War.

Al Ghoraaba

Al Ghoraaba was originally written as a poem by Palestinian Harun Hashim Rasheed and later transcribed into a song by The Rahbani Brothers from Lebanon, before being sung by Lebanese songstress Fairouz. The song highlights the lives of Palestinians who became refugees in foreign countries and the pain they’ve had to endure.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:53 PM