'The Present': Buying a Gift Can Be Difficult in the West Bank

Maybe One Day Children Will Find the Road to Palestine's Freedom

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri (Yusef)and actress Mariam Kanj (Yasmine) at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank in a scene from “The Present” movie.
Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri (Yusef)and actress Mariam Kanj (Yasmine) at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank in a scene from “The Present” movie.

'The Present': Buying a Gift Can Be Difficult in the West Bank

Buying someone a gift is a pleasant act we can do to each other, and if someone started to tell you about his decision to buy his wife a present, you will expect an emotional story full of love and attention. But this is not the exact story when citizens in Palestine, especially the West Bank, will tell.

Palestine is a country that witnesses a lot of suffering even in the daily habits of people such as walking in the streets and shopping. The very simple rights and pictures of freedom everybody should have in his country. I cannot imagine that I am talking about axioms people should practice unless they are in a prison! The story of the movie is true and losing freedom in your homeland is the saddest face of this truth.

"The present" is a 2020 short film directed by the British Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi and co-written by Nabulsi and Hind Shoufani. The cast is led by Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri and includes Mariam Kanj, Mariam Basha and Karam Elayyan.

The film premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Film. It subsequently won awards at the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Brooklyn Film Festival, and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films.

In 2021, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film and won the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film, and it was released on Netflix on 18 March 2021.

The story

The film tells the story of a father and daughter in the Palestinian enclaves of the Israeli-occupied West Bank trying to buy a wedding anniversary gift. The husband has to go through the outbound and return trips at the Israeli checkpoints and be subjected to the most severe forms of humiliation and abuse, to finally be able to buy the gift, which is a new refrigerator for the house.

Only 24 minutes, which is the duration of the film, was enough to describe all the injustice the West Bank residents face regardless of who they are. All face the same painful reality, workers, normal people, and children.

It opens with Yusef (Saleh Bakri) waiting to cross the overcrowded Checkpoint 300, near Bethlehem, in the early morning, lying on the ground near the separation wall on a piece of cardboard and waiting for the crossing to open to head to Israel with the rest of the workers.

The wall has become a symbol of imprisonment and constraint in Palestine and every story about this occupied country. This scene was produced on location with guerrilla filmmaking; Nabulsi described it as "probably the most rewarding scene in the film to make".

Moving to the collective prison, when Youssef joined the rest of the Palestinian workers at the checkpoint, and stood among the large numbers, who could hardly move, some of them even climbed the path of the barrier and started walking on its upper edge. Without a lot of talking, the scene reminds us of the prison and the measures that limit one's freedom of movement.

Another scene came to highlight the intimacy of the Palestinian home to us, and despite the difficulties and challenges, they did not lose their soul and desire to lead a warm life even if it was only inside their homes. Youssef with his wife and daughter Yasmine with short dialogues tell us that father and daughter are about to embark on a journey to buy a gift for the mother on their wedding anniversary. At the beginning of this journey, the father's suffering returns at the Israeli checkpoint.


Mariam Kanj (Yasmine) pushing the refrigerator and walked on the road designated for the Israelis in the West Bank a scene from “The Present” movie.

The film wanted also to focus on the suffering of the children who were not excluded, and who realized facts early in their life and faced danger and fear instead of playing and enjoying their moments. Yasmine sat at the checkpoint waiting for her father to be released, and then urinated in her pants, and in a scene full of sadness, Yasmine said to her father "It's okay dad, there was nothing you could do."

In a symbiotic scene, Yasmine sees two adorable caged birds inside a shop she is visiting with her father. The beauty of the two birds, and the joy they initially bring to the girl's face, contrast with their imprisonment, in metaphorical and disturbing meaning.

The camera rests on Yasmine's face when she appears from behind the bars of the birdcage, expressing an astonishing expression in her resemblance to her father's face when we see him behind the bars of the detention cell room at the crossing.

Scenes contain a lot of injustice which represent what is happening daily to the family and became a clear reason which led to the explosion of Yusef in the face of the soldier on the way back to the house when he first prevented him from entering through the barrier and then walking with his refrigerator.

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri has done a great job in this movie and succeeded in conveying to us the Palestinian suffering easily with very expressive acting and his original features. Also, the child Mariam Kanj’s (Yasmine) acting is so sensitive reflecting us the feeling of all the Palestinian children.

Breaking restrictions and the desired future

Israeli soldiers threaten to arrest you, then let you pass. How does life go under this continuous threat? Despair, hope. This is how the experience of Youssef and Yasmine passes. Just as life goes by under occupation.

The last scene came as a surprise presented by the little Yasmine, making you think if the name of the film talking about the present of the anniversary wedding which is the refrigerator or the present Yasmine made to her father or maybe Palestine in general? The ability and strength of disobeying when it comes to your rights, freedom, and your homeland are also called “present”.

Yasmine refused to obey the Israeli soldier, pushed the refrigerator, and walked on the road designated for the Israelis without any fear, while her father was watching her from behind the window, and the soldiers stood stunned by what she did. A scene that draws the future we all aspire for Palestine, the future of Palestinians are not humiliated, enjoy their freedom and there is no injustice and oppression.


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