Farah Nabulsi: the political is personal in short film

(Farah Nabulsi)

The directorial debut of Farah Nabulsi couldn’t have been anything other than a film in which the political and the creative collide. Her short film The Present does just that. It’s a gritty and touching story about a father and daughter who must pass through a segregated and intimidating checkpoint in Palestine in order to buy their weekly groceries.

Starring renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, the film illustrates how Palestinians are deprived of the basic right to freedom of movement. According to the director’s first hand experiences at checkpoints, which inspired her to write this piece, the story is entirely realistic and representative of the harsh circumstances.

In the short, a father and his young daughter set out on his wedding anniversary in the West Bank to buy a gift for his wife set against the backdrop of military occupied Palestine,  where they are met with the daily obstacles of soldiers, segregated roads, and checkpoints. 

When an act of love as simple as buying an anniversary present involves life or death stakes from a government- the personal is political. This  is why this kind of story had to be told by Nabulsi, a Palestinian director, writer, producer and human rights advocate. The matters of this woman’s heart are equally consumed by art and advocacy.  Watch the trailer below:

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And there’s a poster:

“Unfortunately, in real life this would have most likely ended with violence,” Farah explained, along with a dire tone trailing off to the imagine the worst. In Farah’s story she wanted to provide hope through the future generation, specifically women, as embodied by the little girl in the film; she succeeded, while warming the viewer’s heart in the oppressive, cold world the people of Palestine exist within.

Farah was born and raised in London as the daughter of  Palestinians who were fortunate enough to make a home in 1970’s Britain — unlike the millions who continue to remain stateless in refugee camps. With the combination of her lineage and spending time in Palestine throughout her life, she always felt a deep connected to her ancestral roots.

It wasn’t until 2013 after a life changing trip to Palestine that she left the corporate world she had built a life in and transformed with a commitment to advocate for those without a voice though film and nonprofit work.

In 2016, she founded Native Liberty Productions, a not-for-profit media production company, that aims to re-humanize the Palestinians and draw attention to the injustices they face. She is also the founder of oceansofinjustice.com, an online educational platform with news from the Israeli-occupied territories.

The Present had its world premiere at the coveted Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best International Film, the Jury Award for Best Live Action Short at the Cleveland International Film Festival (North American premiere), the Audience Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival and, at Palm Springs International ShortFest, it won the Special Jury Bridging the Borders Award and Audience Pick- and qualified for the 2021 Oscars.

Nabulsi has been invited to screen her work and speak at various notable events including the in New York where she addressed the delegates in the Trustee Chamber Council. This isn’t the kind of woman who wants to tell stories just for the sake of it;  she wants to shed light on important issues from her homeland, shift perspective, evoke empathy, and open hearts.

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With a feature in the works also taking place in Palestine and starring Saleh Bakri, The Present is just the beginning of her work advocating social justice through art. With this short film (and all her work) Nabulsi wants to express that,  “we all need to exercise empathy and place ourselves into the pain of others and then ask ourselves if would we accept this for ourselves; and if the answer is no- if we would not accept this for ourselves- how can we accept it for others?”

Megan Penn is a Los Angeles based, New York born actress and writer. Megan has a passion for stories in which women are in the drivers seat, along with a bad case of retrophilia.