Palestinian Movie ‘Villa Touma’ Arrives in Venice Amid Israeli Controversy

Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy.

The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund.

But Arraf, an Arab citizen of Israel, has registered “Villa” as a Palestinian movie, infuriating the Israeli minister of culture and prompting the Israel Film Fund to demand its money back.

The brouhaha has led to a series of manifestos, with various local artists, both Israeli and Palestinian, rallying behind Arraf and her decision.

As for Arraf herself, the first-time helmer and screenwriter of “Lemon Tree” and “The Syrian Bride” has written a piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz defending her stance.

“I am an Arab, a Palestinian and a citizen of the state of Israel. I have the right to emphasize my nationality as I present my film to the world, and there is no law in the state of Israel that forbids me from doing so,” Arraf wrote. “As far as I am concerned, a film’s identity is that of its creator.”

Roughly 20% of Israel’s 8 million citizens are Arabs and consider themselves Palestinian.

Hany Abu-Assad, the Nazareth-born Arab director, also found himself in hot water when he petitioned to have his Oscar-nominated “Paradise Now” listed as a film from Palestine at the 2006 Academy Awards.
“Paradise Now” was also made with coin from the Israel Film Fund, and in the end was listed as a product not of Palestine but of the Palestinian Authority.

With his sophomore effort “Omar,” Abu-Assad took no chances, and refused all Israeli funds. That film also received an Oscar nod and was classified at the kudocast as a film from Palestine, the first ever.

More Film

  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

    Film Review: 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • Rose Byrne

    Film News Roundup: Rose Byrne in Talks to Join Tiffany Haddish's 'Limited Partners'

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • Cher and Meryl Streep'Mamma Mia! Here

    How the Cast of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' Geeked Out Around Cher

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • 'BuyBust' Review

    Film Review: ‘BuyBust’

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • John Malone

    John Malone, Scott Paterson Retiring From Lionsgate Board

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • Moviepass

    MoviePass Parent's Stock Plunges Again to Record Low

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

  • Timothee Chalamet

    Timothee Chalamet in Talks to Star in Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune'

    Suha Arraf’s “Villa Touma,” which screens in Venice Critics’ Week, has arrived in Italy carrying the baggage of a major Israeli controversy. The film, a melodrama set in Ramallah during the early days of the Israeli occupation, was made primarily with Israeli public funds, including $400,000 from the Israel Film Fund. But Arraf, an Arab […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content