“I Am From Palestine” Ends Award-Winning Festival Run To Amplify Palestinian Voices

The filmmakers said that while the film has a young protagonist, it is intended for viewers of all ages “to convey the resilience of the Palestinian spirit and the importance of uplifting our children.”

“I Am From Palestine” Ends Award-Winning Festival Run To Amplify Palestinian Voices
The film follows Saamidah, a young Palestinian American girl who learns more about her cultural heritage by communing with her family.

The award-winning animation short “I Am From Palestine” has recently been made available to the public, accessible to watch for free for the first time ever via YouTube. Directed by Iman Zawahry and co-written by Zawahry and Rifk Ebeid, “I Am From Palestine” has been made accessible because its creators see it as a tool and resource in amplifying Palestinian voices and the Palestinian narrative (via Instagram).

“The ongoing genocide in Palestine has mobilized people of conscience around the world to amplify Palestinian voices and educate themselves and their networks about the plight of Palestinians for liberation from Israeli settler colonial oppression,” the filmmakers said in a statement late last week. “To help serve as a resource and educational tool during this critical time in our history, we have decided to end our festival run and make our award-winning short animation, ‘I Am From Palestine,’ available to the public.”

The statement continued by saying that while the film has a young protagonist, it is intended for viewers of all ages. This is “to convey the resilience of the Palestinian spirit and the importance of uplifting our children, instilling in them strength and confidence in their identity, and teaching them to always speak truth to power.”

The synopsis of “I Am From Palestine” is as follows: As Saamidah, a young Palestinian American girl, anxiously starts her first day of school, she finds her identity in question when faced with a world map that doesn’t include her homeland (via Ebeid’s website).

“I Am From Palestine” is based on Ebeid’s picture book “Baba, What Does My Name Mean? A Journey to Palestine.” It was illustrated by Lamaa Jawhari, who also served as the key animator on the film. Just like in the short film, Saamidah asks her Baba about her name and embarks on a journey that brings her beloved homeland to life, celebrating the richness of her cultural heritage.

Prior to being pulled from the festival circuit, “I Am From Palestine” had been an official selection at 12 different festivals following its debut at the RiverRun International Film Festival this past April. Most recently, the film won the Will Vinton Award at the Portland Film Festival on Oct. 22. The filmmakers found the victory meaningful at this time. In a statement, they said that, “[We] are honored that our animation won the Will Vinton Award at the Portland Film Festival, recognizing the importance of hearing Palestinian voices and spotlighting Palestinian narratives. Will Vinton is known as being the pioneer of stop-motion pictures and helped transform the world of animation … For as long as we are subjected to the shackles of the Israeli settler colonial regime and all the abhorrent violence that comes with it, we will continue to raise our voices and tell our stories and educate the world that we exist.”

Zawahry is one of the first hijabi Muslim American filmmakers. She has worked on numerous films that have played at over 150 venues worldwide. She’s an Emmy award winner, Princess Grace Award recipient, a Lincoln Center Artist Academy Fellow, and Sundance Momentum Fellow. She is also the co-creator of the first American Muslim film grant with Islamic Scholarship Fund, where she currently serves as director of film programs. Zawahry works to amplify the underrepresented female voice and frequently consults and speaks across the nation on the topic of Muslims in film. Her debut film, “Americanish” (2021), has won 26 awards, including best director and best film. The film is currently enjoying a limited theatrical run before its availability as a Video On Demand (via Zawahry’s website).

Ebeid is a Palestinian American Muslim writer, attorney and pediatric speech language pathologist. She is the author of two children’s picture books about Palestine, including “You Are The Color,” and “Baba, What Does My Name Mean? A Journey to Palestine,” which was nominated for the Palestine Book Awards 2020 (via Ebeid’s website).

“I Am From Palestine” is available to watch now. Check it out exclusively on YouTube at the link below.