From April 16 through May 5, the Gene Siskel Film Center collaborates with the Chicago Palestine Film Festival to present the fifteenth annual festival representing the spirit and mood of contemporary Palestinian life. This festival is dedicated to exhibiting film and video work that is open, critical, and reflective of the culture, experience, and vision of the artists.

This year’s festival is made possible in part through the support of the Crossroads Fund and the Khaled & Noha E. Taha Foundation (KNET). For their invaluable cooperation the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks the members of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival Committee.

—Barbara Scharres, Gene Siskel Film Center


Opening night film!



2015, Hany Abu Assad, UK/Palestine/Qatar, 100 min.
With Qais Atallah, Hiba Atallah, Tawfeek Barhom


Saturday, April 16, 8:00 pm
Wednesday, April 20, 8:00 pm



“This is crowd-pleasing cinema akin to Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.” —Ben Nicholson, CineVue

“Thoroughly captivating…charming, rambunctious.” —Justin Chang, Variety

Four mischievous kids in a Gaza refugee camp master the ways of the streets to score musical instruments and start a ragtag wedding band. Surmounting poverty, family tragedy, and the occupation, the band’s precociously talented vocalist Mohammed Assaf (Barhom), grows up to wrangle a coveted spot on TV’s Arab Idol. If he wins, he will be the first Palestinian ever with the title of Arab Idol. The hopes of an entire people hang thrillingly on the outcome. Based on a true story and recreated by director Abu Assad (OMAR, PARADISE NOW) this rousing tension-filled cliffhanger satiates with an irresistibly jubilant finale. In Arabic with English subtitles.

Preceded by the Oscar-nominated short AVE MARIA (2015, Basil Khalil, Palestine/France. 14 min.) A car accident results in a cultural collision between an argumentative Israeli family and a Palestinian convent under a vow of silence. In Arabic, English, and Hebrew with English subtitles. (BS)



2015, Arab Nasser and Tarzan Nasser, Palestine/France/Qatar, 84 min.
With Hiam Abbass, Victoria Balitska


Sunday, April 17, 5:30 pm



“Ambitious, promising…compelling and even poignant.” —Allan Hunter, Screen Daily

“Impressively directed and featuring an ensemble of blazing performances…an ode to the women of Gaza: their resilience, strength, and, especially, their humor.” —Toronto International Film Festival program

Thirteen women holed up in a small Gaza beauty salon while a battle rages outside are forced to confront their jealousies, frustrations, and worries. Front and center are the personalities of strong Palestinian women, from a haughty prima donna divorcee (Abass) to a shy bride-to-be to comically spiteful sisters-in-law. Known for their irreverence and cutting satire, the twin-brother directors Nasser (CONDOM LEAD) build tension in a pressure-cooker setup with off-the-wall complications including a violent standoff in the street between a gangster with a purloined lion from a Hamas zoo and a posse of thugs hell-bent on retrieving the big cat. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital.

Preceded by the short SOLOMON’S STONE (2015, Ramzi Maqdisi, Palestine/Spain, 25 min.) The arrival of a mysterious package threatens to change a young man’s life. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)




2014, Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele de Grande, and Khaled Soliman al Nassiry, Italy, 98 min.


Friday, April 22, 8:00 pm
Sunday, April 24, 5:00 pm



A Milan-based trio of friends–a poet, a writer, and a translator–hatch a daring plot to smuggle a group of undocumented Syrian Palestinian refugees to Sweden by posing as a wedding party. Risking prison and/or deportation, the Ersatz family journeys four days by car and by foot over mountainous borders. Despite the evident hardship and danger, this winner of three special awards at the Venice International Film Festival exudes an air of celebration and unflagging hope, aptly symbolized by the bride’s gauzy white gown. In Arabic and Italian with English subtitles. DCP digital.

Preceded by TRANSIT GAME (2014, Anna Fahr, USA/Lebanon, 18 min). Two kids on a country road give a new refugee a glimpse of the future with their youthful charm and optimism. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)



2015, Amber Fares, Palestine/USA/Qatar, 83 min.


Saturday, April 23, 8:00 pm
Thursday, April 28, 8:15 pm



“A bold little film with a lot of attitude…thrilling as a snapshot of social change.”–Jeannie Kermode, Eye For Film

“A lively portrait of its trailblazing subjects…shattering stereotypes.”–Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Speed equals freedom for the five women of a Palestinian all-female racing car team, the first-ever in the Middle East. With differing motivations and backgrounds, they hone public personas ranging from tomboy to girly-girl. Drivers Marah, Mona, Betty, and Noor and their manager Maysoon, kick the “just girls” stereotypes to the curb, overcoming limitations of politics and environment to reign as symbols of hope for a fun-starved following. Defying cultural bias, men, and especially their supportive dads, are the biggest fans of these taboo-breaking champions.

Preceded by EPICLY PALESTINE’D: THE BIRTH OF SKATEBOARDING IN THE WEST BANK (2015, Philip Joa and Theo Krish, UK, 26 min.)   The young Palestinians who launched skateboarding in the West Bank tell all. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)



2015, Jake Witzenfeld, UK, 86 min.


Friday, April 29, 8:00 pm
Sunday, May 1, 5:00 pm



Three gay Palestinian friends explore the contradictions in their lives with Jewish filmmaker, Witzenfeld. Khader is at ease with his relationship with an Israeli lover as just another dimension of “otherness,” while fervently political Fadi rejects intimate friendship with the enemy until he finds himself falling for one of their number. Naeem, in the closet to his traditional family, endures their increasing pressure to marry and start a family of his own. Together the three embark on a flamboyant form of activism involving video skits. In Arabic, Hebrew, and English with English subtitles.

Preceded by IN THE FUTURE THEY ATE FROM THE FINEST PORCELAIN (2015, Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, UK/Denmark, 29 min.) The concept of nationhood is explored through a sci-fi plot. In Arabic with English subtitles). DCP digital. (BS)


Closing night film!


(3000 LAYLA)

2015, Mai Masri, Palestine/France/Jordan, 103 min.
With Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadera Omran


Saturday, April 30, 8:00 pm
Thursday, May 5, 8:00 pm



“Authentically rendered…inspiring and eye-opening.”–Robert Bell, Exclaim!

“Admirably avoiding sensationalism…emotionally gripping.”–Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter

Layal, newly married and pregnant, finds herself in an Israeli prison, convicted as an accessory to a terrorist bombing after doing a good deed for a stranger. The warden and guards foster suspicion and mistrust, and stoke the bitter enmity between Palestinian and Israeli prisoners. The birth of Layal’s child brings rare joy, but hasten the day when she must choose between family and solidarity with the cause of freedom. Director Masri recreates the politics and tensions of the Palestinian struggle in this microcosm while demonstrating the unique challenges facing Palestinian women living under occupation.

In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Preceded by DETAINING DREAMS (2015, Amr Kawji, USA/Palestine, 20 min.) Four Palestinian children cope with life under Israeli detention. DCP digital. (BS)