A Netflix film depicting Zionist forces murdering a Palestinian family during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation has been condemned by Israeli officials as “creating a false narrative”.
Farha, the debut of the Jordanian film-maker Darin Sallam, has been shown at several film festivals around the world since its release last year, and is Jordan’s Oscars entry for 2023. It is due to begin streaming to a global audience on the online entertainment service on Thursday.
The film centres on the experiences of a girl, 14, who is locked in a storage room by her father during the events of the Nakba, the Arabic term for the ethnic cleansing and displacement of about 700,000 Palestinians. When nascent Israeli soldiers come to the village, Farha witnesses the killing of an entire family, including two small children and a baby, through a crack in the pantry door.
The trailer and advertisements say the film is inspired by real events.
“It’s crazy that Netflix decided to stream a movie whose whole purpose is to create a false pretence and incite against Israeli soldiers,” said Israel’s outgoing finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in a statement. Lieberman also said he would look at withdrawing state funding from Al Saraya theatre in the Arab-majority town of Jaffa, which screened the film.
Israel’s culture minister, Hili Tropper, said Farha depicted “lies and libels”, and showing it in an Israeli theatre “is a disgrace”.
In an emailed comment sent on Thursday, the theatre’s manager, Mahmoud Abo Arisheh, said: “We responded to incitement with the fact that we [went ahead with] showing the movie.
“As for the public’s response, Saraya’s supporters once again proved to be many. We are committed to defending our right to exist and to express ourselves … We are committed to freedom of art, all art.”
Portrayals of atrocities committed by Jewish forces in the 1948 war, fictional or otherwise, remain a highly sensitive subject in Israel. A documentary released earlier this year about the massacre of Palestinians in Tantura, a destroyed coastal village in what is now the north of Israel, faced widespread backlash.
In interviews, Sallam has said she made the film because while many narrative films tell Palestinian stories, very few focus on the root cause of the conflict and occupation. Farha, she says, is the story of a friend of Sallam’s mother, who met each other as young women in Syria.
“The story travelled over the years to reach me. It stayed with me. When I was a child, I had this fear of closed, dark places and I kept thinking of this girl and what happened to her,” the director told Arab News.
Sallam has also said that while she did not seek to draw a deliberate parallel with Anne Frank, she can see the similarities in the traumatic experiences of the two teenage girls.