Is Farha based on a true story as the coming-of-age Netflix movie wows critics and fans alike

Farha is not an easy watch, but it’s being widely praised for its important subject matter

The filmmakers of Farha, Netflix's powerful new hit
(Image credit: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)

A Netflix movie has been met with widespread praise from audiences and critics – but it’s far from light entertainment.

Farha is the debut film of a Jordanian filmmaker, Darin Sallam, and takes place in Palestine in 1948.

1948 was an important year for the area – on May 14, the State of Israel was officially established. Violence surrounded the official Jewish state being established, with the conflict still lasting to this day.

That same year saw one of the deadliest Zionist attacks on Palestinians, the Nakba, or the Palestinian Catastrophe. And this sets the scene for Netflix’s Farha.

What is Farha about?

Farha is a profound and challenging look at the events of the Nakba, the Arabic term for the ethnic cleansing and displacement of about 700,000 Palestinians in 1948.

The film looks at the 1948 tragedy through the eyes and ears of Farha, a 14-year-old girl with big dreams and ambitions involving education – something which isn’t necessarily the done thing in her community at the time.  

However, Farha’s ambitions have more than societal pressures to contend with as the Israel-Palestine conflict erupts following the British withdrawal in 1948.

Farha has been praised by critics and audiences alike

(Image credit: TaleBox Jordan)

Farha is forced into hiding by her father when the turmoil breaks out. While waiting for her father in a locked pantry, she witnesses the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) carry out the execution of an entire Palestinian family.

The film is Jordanian filmmaker Darin Sallam’s directorial debut and the Jordanian Oscars entry for 2023.

Is Farha based on a true story?

Farha is inspired by real events that have been fictionalized, with the character of Radieh based on a friend of Sallam's mother. 

From her hiding place, Radieh witnessed the displacement of her people before fleeing to Syria. In Syria, she relayed her story to a friend - Darin Sallam’s mother - who shared the narrative with her daughter. Darin told Middle East Eye that she can't recall when she first heard about Radieh's story, but that it stuck with her.

Darin Sallam (left) was told the harrowing true story which inspired Farha

(Image credit: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)

Explaining how the story has passed through the generations to reach its new audience on Netflix, Darin told Arab News, “The story traveled over the years to reach me. It stayed with me. When I was a child, I had this fear of closed, dark places and I kept thinking of this girl and what happened to her. So, when I grew up and became a filmmaker, I decided that this would be my debut feature.”

Beyond the personal, experiences depicted in the film hit close to home for many of the cast and crew.

As Actress Sameera Asir explained to Arab News, “Some of the crew members were crying behind the monitor while shooting, remembering their families and their stories, and the stories they heard from their grandparents.”

While the movie has been met with near universal acclaim from critics and audiences, some Israeli figures have hit out against it, accusing it of “creating a false narrative.”

“It’s crazy that Netflix decided to stream a movie whose whole purpose is to create a false pretence and incite against Israeli soldiers,” said Israel’s outgoing finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in a statement.

While tensions mount around the movie, Darin Sallam insists the film doesn’t have a political agenda.

To Arab News, she said, “I’m not afraid to tell the truth. We need to do this because films live and we die. This is why I decided to make this film. Not because I’m political, but because I’m loyal to the story that I heard.”

Darin Sallam insists the movie doesn't have a political agenda

(Image credit: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)

How to watch Farha

Farha is available to stream on Netflix now.

It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 14, 2021 and began airing on Netflix from December 1, 2022.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.