'The Present' - Academy Awards Review

'The Present' by Farah Nabulsi is up for a Best Live Action Short Film Oscar
'The Present' - Academy Awards Review

The Present is a short film made by British-Palestinian filmmaker and human rights advocate Farah Nabulsi. The film has already managed to win a BAFTA earlier this month and is in the runnings for an Oscar in its shorts category at the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards on 25th April, 2021.

The story of The Present is a simple tale of a father and his young daughter forging an alliance in a world that aims to separate them -- separate them from the rest of their fellow humans, separate them from their pride, and joy of living and most importantly, separate them from each other. In under 25 minutes, which feel even shorter due to the film's haunting subject matter and spellbinding acting, Nabulsi's oeuvre manages to achieve what many films much longer than hers never do. It seeps into the viewer's consciousness and remains there, pushing to change one's outlook and point of view.

Perhaps the biggest success of the film lies in its casting coup, with Arab cinema superstar Saleh Bakri in the role of Yusef and Mariam Kanj as his daughter Yasmine. As an aside, Kanj is the real-life daughter of the film's art director Nael Kanj who is well known for his work on Palestinian cinema classics like Hany Abu-Assad's Omar, Annemarie Jacir's Wajib and Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains. Together, the younger Kanj and Bakri sell the audience wholeheartedly on their relationship, Yusef's love for his courageous daughter, as well as Yasmine's adoration for her doting father.

Throughout the film, the unfortunate third character ever looming over their lives is of course the occupation. Yusuf is Palestinian and his daily movements are “coordinated” by the erratic temperaments of Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint that he must cross each day, both to get out of and back into Bethlehem. And Nabulsi draws our attention to the fact that these men and women claiming power over the Palestinians are oftentimes not even born in the land they now command away from its original people. When Yusef attempts to purchase a gift for his wife on their wedding anniversary, things take a harrowing turn.

There are endless nuances in The Present which deal with everything from how to be a truly loving father, to how to find one’s inner manhood in a world that is constantly trying to humiliate you — with displays of jealousy from petty people towards those who are intrinsically a cut above them in between. The Present proves both a gift and an informative view into the Palestinians daily struggles all wrapped into the perfect film.

The film is currently available to view on Netflix.

Palestine, 2020, 24mins

Director Farah Nabulsi

Writers Farah Nabulsi | Hind Shoufani

Production Philistine Films

Producer Ossama Bawardi

Cinematography Benoît Chamaillard

Editing Annemarie Jacir (editing supervisor) | Abdallah Sada | Hind Shoufani

Music Adam Benobaid

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