Mohammad Bakri is a Palestinian actor and filmmaker. He was born in 1953 in the village of Al-Ba’ani in Palestine. He graduated from the University of Tel-Aviv in 1976 with a degree in Theatre and Arabic Literature. That same year, he debuted in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the Haifa Municipal Theatre, a play that he would direct more than a quarter century later in 2003 for Haifa’s Maydan Theatre. In that same theatre, he played Bernarda Alba in Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba in 2000, and then in 2007 directed A Day From Our Time by Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous.

Between 1993 and 2000, Bakri worked in Jerusalem and Ramallah for Al-Qasaba Theatre, which he and actor/director George Ibrahim co-founded. He performed in numerous plays at Al-Qasaba, including Abdul Ghaffar Mekkawi’s The Night and the Mountain, The Clown by Mohammed al-Maghout, The Immigrant by Georges Shehadé and Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman. However, it was his groundbreaking 1986 production of a theatrical adaptation of Emile Habibi’s novel The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist that propelled his career to new heights. This one-man show has been performed over two thousand times all over the world in countries including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Israel. The play is performed in Arabic and is usually accompanied by a simultaneous translation. From the very beginning, Emile Habibi participated actively both as a friend and as a mentor.

Since 1983 Bakri has directed four films – “1948”, on the 50th anniversary of the Nakba, “Jenin, Jenin” (2002), “Since You Left” (2005), and “Zahra” (2010). This most recent film focuses on the life of Bakri’s aunt Zahra who, in 1948, was exiled to Lebanon, but secretly returned to Palestine.

In 2005, five Israeli soldiers complicit in the destruction of the Jenin camp filed a law suit against Bakri, claiming that his film “Jenin, Jenin” was slanderous and had caused them psychological damage. They demanded more than half a million dollars for the emotional distress “Jenin Jenin” caused them. When the lawsuit was dropped by the Israeli Supreme Court, the Israeli Attorney General appealed against the ruling. The appeal was eventually dismissed, but it took years to reach the decision, during which time Mohammad Bakri’s travel and work schedule were constantly curtailed and altered around trial dates.

Bakri has won many awards, including the Palestine Award for Cinema, the Carthage Theatre Festival Award for Excellence for “The Pessoptimist”, and the award for Best Documentary twice, once for “Jenin, Jenin” and also for “Since You Left”. He won the Gold Tanit from that same festival for “Layla’s Birthday”, whilst at the Locarno Film Festival he won the best actor award for “Private”(2006).


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Banipal 45 - Writers from Palestine (2012)