RAMALLAH, West Bank/JERUSALEM : Palestinian director Ameen Nayfeh says he felt proud after bringing to life through film his personal struggle in crossing an Israeli military checkpoint to visit his dying grandfather. But he didn't expect his short film to have a wide audience.
That all changed for Nayfeh on Thursday, when Netflix launched a new Palestinian film collection, the first of its kind by a major streaming service, that includes his award-winning short "The Crossing".
“This is why we make films, because we want our stories to travel, we want people to know about us,” Nayfeh, 33, told Reuters.
“Now when you type Palestine in the search button on Netflix, you will see so many different titles that you can watch. Before, when I would type Palestine I would get Israeli titles,” he said.
Netflix's new Palestinian collection, titled “Palestinian Stories”, is made up of 32 award-winning films that are either directed by Palestinian filmmakers or tell Palestinian stories, the company said in a press release on Tuesday.
“The diversification of our content sits close to my heart as Netflix works to become the home of Arabic cinema,” said Nuha El Tayeb, a spokesperson for Netflix.
Many of the films tell stories of Palestinian life in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians seek for a future independent state.
Israel maintains military checkpoints in the West Bank, citing security concerns. Palestinians say the roadblocks severely restrict their mobility throughout the territory.
Before filmmakers, Palestinian musicians began reaping the benefits of streaming to a global audience after Spotify launched its music streaming service in the Middle East and North Africa in 2018.
Netflix has made the new collection of Palestinian films available to all customers, the company said.
Huda al Imam, an actress in the Oscar-nominated film "Ave Maria", which is also featured in Netflix's Palestinian collection, said it would expand the reach of Palestinian stories.
“Thanks to Netflix, now Palestinian stories and Palestinian life with its beauty and agony will be shown all around the world," al Imam said.
(Reporting and writing by Zainah El-Haroun in Ramallah, additional reporting by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)