British-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi’s short film, set in occupied West Bank, has been shortlisted for the Oscars.
By William Parry | Al-Jazeera | Mar 9, 2021
“As children, we would go to Palestine, and I think that laid certain seeds – politically, no – but it laid certain attachments, certain connections to the people, the land, to friends we made, to our ancestral home, quite literally.”
— Farah Nabulsi, film director
A short film set in occupied Palestine – Farah Nabulsi’s The Present - has been shortlisted for the Oscars. Given the increased political isolation and setbacks Palestinians have faced throughout the Trump years in the Middle East and in the West, the international kudos and exposure The Present has enjoyed to date must be an upbeat and unexpected change for many.
It is a simple, relatable story of a labourer named Yusuf (played by Saleh Bakri), who sets out one day with his young daughter, Yasmine (played by Mariam Kanj), to get an anniversary gift for his wife.
An unsettling sense of what their celebratory outing might entail is conveyed through the harrowing, claustrophobic opening scenes of Yusuf’s daily grind of getting to and from work through Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem – the one scene that was filmed at the actual checkpoint to capture the inhumanity imposed on those who are forced to use it.
Through Nabulsi’s tight, nuanced writing and direction, the characters adeptly show what Israeli checkpoints mean for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who must pass through them daily. Her aim behind the film was to expose the indignity and violence endured daily by connecting with audiences on a human and emotional level, and that has been effectively achieved as the accolades attest.