Mohammad Bakri, 2010
1953 (age 59–60)
Muhammad Bakri was born in the village of Bi'ina in northern Israel. He went to elementary school in his hometown and received his secondary education in the nearby city of Akko. He studied acting and Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University in 1973 and graduated three years later.
Acting and film career
Bakri began his professional acting career in with Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv, Haifa theater and al-Kasaba theater in Ramallah. His one-man plays, "The Pessoptimist," 1986, "The Anchor," 1991, "Season of Migration to the North 1993," and "Abu Marmar," 1999, were performed in Hebrew and Arabic.
After a few years of acting in Palestinian and Israeli film, Bakri began to act in international films in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada. Bakri also directed two documentary films including the controversial "Jenin, Jenin".
After Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, Bakri interviewed residents of the Jenin refugee camp and produced a film based on their testimony, Jenin, Jenin. Some of the survivors described a massacre of hundreds of people. Bakri did not interview Israeli officials. After three showings the film was banned by the Israeli Film Board, which claimed it was not a documentary as it showed only one side of the story. Nevertheless, Bakri showed the film at the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinematheques and Arab theaters such as Al-Midan in Haifa.
Bakri petitioned the High Court of Justice 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. 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.
- 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
Awards and recognition
- 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.
- Biography Mohammad Bakri Official Website.
- New Face, Haaretz Magazine
- 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.
- Michael Handelzalts (2012-01-31). "Behind the curtain of a right-wing campaign against an Israeli-Arab actor". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-01-31.