Combat Cinema: Palestinian Women's Films

Sanja Siljak

Student thesis: Master thesis


While a vast amount of research already exists on issues related to Palestine and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a focus on media and culture has been of secondary importance. This dissertation examines contemporary Palestinian women filmmakers’ cinematic expressions (one documentary and five short films). Departing from a hypothesis that these films are political and used as a weapon of resistance, I explore the ways in which resistance is articulated through an analysis of the films and interviews with the filmmakers. My assumption is that the struggle carried out by the women is twofold; on the one hand, women are fighting for national self-determination against the Israeli occupation, and on the other hand they are negotiating their own identity both within the constraints of the Israeli occupation and vis-à-vis the Palestinian societal norms that sometimes impinge negatively on women. Moreover, I claim that the cinematic expressions go beyond mere entertainment and that there is a quest for mobilizing Palestinians toward a liberation that has a national, but also a gendered character. I utilize an interdisciplinary approach by integrating postcolonial and transnational feminist perspectives alongside theories on resistance, decolonization, and the question of the national. I situate the cinematic expressions within the framework of Third Cinema and explore the resistance through theories of everyday tactics (Michel de Certeau, James C. Scott, Michel Foucault). The findings of this research show that women employ multifarious tactics to unburden their predicaments according to the specific situation they are in and according to the women’s ressources. In some instances, they openly defy and challenge authority, and in other contexts, resistance is carried out in more disguised and discrete ways, depending on the space for manoeuvre that is at the women’s disposal. Not all resistance is acted out in a politicized manner, at times, resistance is largely based on self-interested grounds. Each way of resistance is therefore distinct and determined by the social and economic conditions of the women. Albeit gendered and national struggles are intervowen, these films do not portray a feminist struggle per se, instead, they are exposing the ways in which conflicts and societal norms affect women. There is more emphasis on the question of the national rather that an overt quest for ‘liberating’ women. These films, nevertheless, inscribe women’s narratives into the histories and narratives of Palestine, and are part of the process of decolonization.

EducationsInternational Development Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date28 Jan 2014
SupervisorsEric Komlavi Hahonou


  • Third Cinema
  • feminism
  • women's films
  • resistance