The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival that took place this September, wrapped up its nine days of festivities with the premiere of "Farha," a film about a Palestinian teen that compares the IDF to Nazi soldiers. Now, the film is set to premier on the Netflix streaming service.
Farha, the work of the Jordanian director and writer Darin J. Sallam, has also been chosen to represent Jordan at the 95th Academy Awards to compete at the International Feature Film category for the year 2023.
The production is inspired by true events, and tells a tragic story from the perspective of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who lives with her father in a small village in Mandatory Palestine in 1948.
Both their lives are shattered when the village comes under attack by Israeli soldiers. In the midst of chaos and horror, Farha’s father locks her in the pantry for her safety before leaving to help defend the village. From cracks in the door, Farha witnesses the events of The Nakba, also known as the Palestinian Catastrophe, befall her village, and the destruction of the life she had dreamt for herself.
Among the brutal scenes, the film depicts IDF soldiers cold-heartedly executing a family of Palestinian refugees, and leaving behind an orphaned newborn to die.
In the scene, Farha watches as a refugee family on the run - a father, a pregnant mother, and their two young daughters - are stopped by the IDF - all while the mother is giving birth.
The mother and children scurry to hide, while the father is caught by an IDF officer, accompanied by soldiers and a Palestinian collaborator. The blood stains on the floor from the childbirth, raise suspicions that the father is a terrorist, and therefore he sustains harsh beatings while the soldiers scan the premise.
One of the soldiers eventually finds the mother, and threatens to cut open her still swollen belly to determine the gender of the child, but is interrupted by the cries of the hiding children.
The IDF officer goes on to execute the whole family - leaving behind only the newborn, while the Palestinian collaborator cries in protest. This all takes place while Farha watches from her hiding spot in the pantry.
Sallam claims that the story is based on a young female Palestinian refugee that escaped to Syria in 1948. The Amman-based director led the production in collaboration with supporting bodies from Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
Critics across the board have railed against the blunt antagonization of the Israeli side in the particular scene, and in the film altogether, claiming that it subjectifies an extremely controversial topic.
"Farha turns into the Arab Anne Frank, where the threat comes from Israeli soldiers instead of Nazis," said film critic Fredrik Sahlin.
When asked about the comparison to the Nazi-era, Sallam replied that she "hadn't thought of it that way" when she created the movie, but that she understands why people correlate between the two, and that her character "undergoes a similar horrible journey."
On Thursday, December 1, Farha will be available on Netflix worldwide.