Review: Farha is a jarring reality of the Palestinians

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: Over the years, we have witnessed the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians at the hands of the apartheid regime of Israel. Social media has made on-ground coverage of the atrocities more believable and the plight of the Palestinians more real since we can bear witness to their oppression. And perhaps that is why the Israeli government was vehemently against the release of the Jordanian Academy Award entry, a movie titled Farha which is available on Netflix.

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The movie is said to have been based on a true story. The coming of age film starts innocently enough. Young Farha is 14 years old, the daughter of the village mayor. Those around her label her as stubborn and perhaps that is the accurate description. With her nose buried in a book, the teenager is fixated on going to school in the city. She dreams of learning Math, English, Geography and History and is also anxious to get away from the prospect of marrying her cousin. It seems life is all well especially considering that her father finally does give in to her dream.

But in her innocence, Farha is unaware of the looming threat. The imminent arrival of British soldiers and neighboring villagers/freedom fighters all indicate that danger is lurking in the shadows. When the village is attacked by Zionist forces, Farha refuses to leave her father’s side. Desperate to save his village and his daughter, he locks her in the food cellar and promises to get back to her as soon as he can.

The rest of the movie is told through the eyes of Farha as she lives in the cellar. Blinded to what is actually going on in the village and to her father, she cannot block out the constant sound of gunfire. The 14-year-old has to deal with trauma that no teenager should. Between the constant gunshots, having to protect herself from gas used to clear people out of their homes, hearing the constant threats blasting demanding that the Palestinians “leave or be killed,” she holds onto the hope of fulfilling her dream of going to the city to study.

But things get worse as Farha witnesses the real atrocity of the Nakba, as the Zionist forces show brutality just for the sake of it. Their bloodthirst spares no one, no woman and no child. And Farha has to witness it all alone, locked away in a cellar, unable to help.

That is symbolic of what the movie Farha is actually about. Of how resilient the people of Palestine are. Not because they want to be but because they have been forced to be. Which juxtaposes with their helplessness over the oppression that has been raging on for decades. Farha does what no one would expect a teenager to be able to do and that is fight for survival. The fact that she knows exactly how to protect herself from gas, for example, is heartbreaking to witness.

Farha also shows the courage of the Palestinians. Farha’s father had every chance to flee the village. He could have locked himself in the cellar with his daughter. Instead, he chose to fight to protect his home and his people. That, in turn, is heartbreaking since he was in the position because of the false hope Arab nations provided. In just a few words, the movie is able to highlight the political betrayal the Palestinians had to face as well.

As the movie draws to an end, we realize there is no happy ending for people like Farha. The Nakba marked the decades long suffering, physical and emotional, and the movie serves as a reminder of why we cannot forget Palestine.

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