Mohammad Bakri, 16 March 2010
1953 (age 59–60)
Mohammad Bakri (born 1953; Arabic: محمد بكري, Hebrew: מוחמד בכרי; also spelled Mohammed or Muhammad) is an actor and director of Palestinian descent, known well throughout the Levant, and the greater Arab world.
Early life 
Bakri was born in the village of Bi'ina in North-West Israel in 1953. He went to elementary school in his hometown and received his secondary education in the nearby city of Acre. He studied acting and Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University in 1973 and graduated three years later.
Actor and filmmaker 
Bakri began his professional acting career in plays in several theaters in Israel and the West Bank notably the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv, the Haifa theater and al-Kasaba theater in Ramallah. During this period he became well known as a star in Palestinian film and Israeli television. His one-man plays, "The Pessoptimist," 1986, "The Anchor," 1991, "Season of Migration to the North 1993," and "Abu Marmar," 1999, were performed as often in Hebrew as in Arabic, a reflection of his early wish to "tell the truth of Palestinian history – and tell it first and foremost to Israelis."
After a few years of acting in Palestinian and Israeli film, Bakri began to act in international films in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada. Bakri also directed two documentary films including the controversial "Jenin, Jenin". Almost all of Bakri's films were influenced by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and internal struggles of the Palestinian people.[dead link]
Jenin Jenin controversy 
During Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, the Israeli Defense Forces invaded a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. Nine percent of the camp was leveled and over 50 people were killed. According to the spokesmen for the Israeli military, the IDF refused to allow journalists, human rights and humanitarian organizations into the camp for "safety reasons" during the fighting, leading to a rapid cycle of rumors that a massacre had occurred. Jenin remained sealed for days after the invasion. Stories of civilians being buried alive in their homes as they were demolished, and of smoldering buildings covering crushed bodies, spread throughout the Arab world. Various casualty figures circulated, reaching into the mid-hundreds.
Bakri entered the camp as soon as was feasible, and in the midst of great controversy and confusion over the results of the invasion, in both the Arabic and Hebrew press, began to collect oral testimony from Jenin residents. Out of this effort came the film Jenin Jenin, documenting both the trauma of the survivors, and an utterly wasted camp. Some of the survivors described a massacre of hundreds of people. Bakri did not interview Israeli officials. The film title referenced Palestinian taxidrivers calling "Ramallah, Ramallah, Ramallah," or "Jenin! Jenin!" to Palestinian workers and travellers moving through Israeli checkpoints.
Soon after it was released, after only three showings, Jenin Jenin was banned by the Israeli Film Board in 2002, accusing the film of being libelous for calling itself a documentary despite documenting only one 'side' of the story. Nevertheless, Bakri showed the film at the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinemateques and at Arab theaters such as Al-Midan in Haifa.
Bakri petitioned the High Court of Justice against the censor for prohibiting the screening of the film on the grounds that it distorted the truth. After a long fight, the court rejected the censor's decision. In 2004, the Israeli High Court finally upheld its earlier overturn of the ban, but joined the Film Board in labeling the film a "propagandistic lie," based on Israeli sources which acknowledged only 52 Palestinian deaths, 38 of whom Israeli sources argued were armed fighters. In response to the court's criticism, Bakri stated that he had "seen hundreds of films that deny and ignore what happened to Palestinians, yet [people haven’t] complained or tried to ban any film."
In 2007, five soldiers who fought in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 sued the cinamatheques in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for screening the film in the midst of the ban, and sued Bakri for 2.5 million NIS for producing the film. In July 2008 Bakri was acquitted of the charges.
Jenin-Jenin earned two awards: the "Best Film" award at the Carthage International Film Festival, 2002, and the International Prize for Mediterranean Documentary Filmmaking and Reporting.
Israeli right-wing group Im Tirtzu organized a campaign against Bakri because of "Jenin, Jenin". Im Tirtzu opposed a production of Federico Garcia Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba" in which Bakri played the role of Bernarda. The play was produced in 2012 at Tel Aviv's Tzavta Theater. Israel's Academy of the Performing Arts was behind the production. While refusing Im Tirtzu's request to intervene, Culture Minister Limor Livnat criticized the judgment of the theater's administration."
Bakri is married with six children. His son Saleh Bakri is following in his father's footsteps, currently having a young acting career. He won the Best Supporting Actor award from the Israeli Film Academy for his role in the movie, The Band's Visit (2007) and has gained international attention with his debut role in the Arabic film Salt of this Sea (2008).
- La Masseria Delle Allodole / "The Lark Farm" by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Italy) 2007
- "Private" by Saverio Costanzo (Italy) 2004
- "The Olive Harvest" by Hannah Elias (Palestine) 2001
- "Desperado Square" by Benny Toraty (Italy/Israel) 1997
- "Haifa" by Rashid Masharawi (Palestine/Netherlands) 1996
- "Sous les pieds des femmes" by Rachid Krim (France) 1995
- "The Milky Way" by Ali Nassar (Israel) 1994
- "The Tale of the Three Jewels" by Michel Khleifi (Palestine/Belgium) 1994
- "Beyond the Walls II" by Uri Barabash (Israel) 1994
- "Cup Final (film)" by Eran Riklis (Israel) 1991
- "Foreign Nights" by Izidore K. Musallam (Canada) 1989
- "Rami og Julie" by Erik Clausen (Denmark) 1988
- "Esther" by Amos Gitai (Israel/UK) 1986
- "Beyond the Walls" by Uri Barabash co-wrote with Eran Preis, (Israel) 1984, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
- "Hanna K." by Constantin Costa-Gavras (Israel/France) 1983
- 1948 (Palestine/Israel) 1999
- Jenin, Jenin (Palestine) 2002
- Since You Left (Israel) 2004
- Zahra (Palestine) 2009
- Award for the Best Actor for the role in "Private" in Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2005
- Bronze Leopard for the Best Actor for the role in "Private" by Saverio Costanzo, Locarno International Film Festival 2004
- Palestine Prize for Cinema 1999 Ramallah
- Award for the Best Actor for the role in "Haifa" by Rashid Masharawi, Valencia Festival 1997
- Award for the Best Actor for the role in "Beyond the Walls II" by Uri Barabash, Valencia Festival 1994
- Award for the Best Actor for the role in "Beyond the Walls" by Uri Barabash, Israel 1984
- Award for the best actor for the role in Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih, adapted and directed by Ouriel Zohar, in the Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre, Israel 1993.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (1 September 2004). "Arts briefing". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2010. "Israel's High Court has overturned a ban on a “Jenin, Jenin,” a documentary film by the Israeli Arab Mohammad Bakri about the Israeli Army's retaliatory invasion of a West Bank refugee camp where scores of Palestinians and Israelis were killed in 2002. In its decision the court, though calling the film a “propagandistic lie,” said the Israeli film board did not have “a monopoly over truth.”"
- Biography Mohammad Bakri Official Website.
- Dan Izenberg, "Jenin Jenin now in court" Jerusalem Post, 17 September 2007
- Democracy Now News
- Silencing Dissent in Israel January 26, 2012, Alternative News
- Anderman, Nirit (2011-02-16). "'I lie to save people'". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
- intro of the film
- Michael Handelzalts (2012-01-31). "Behind the curtain of a right-wing campaign against an Israeli-Arab actor". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
- Saleh Bakri Internet Movie Database.
- Salt of this Sea Internet Movie Database.