Palästina, Luxembourg, Iceland

Synopsis

The film revolves around the divorce of a 30-something couple, Salma, a Palestinian from Nazareth from her husband, Tamer, the son of a famous intellectual revolutionary killed in Beirut. Salma and Tamer have been married for the past five years and live in the Palestinian Territories. The first time Tamer is ever given a three-day permit to cross the Israeli checkpoint, is to file for divorce in the courts of Nazareth. At the courthouse they are confronted with a staggering discovery about Tamer's father's past. The secret hidden for years about his father's love affair with an Iraqi Jew in the 1950s sends Salma and Tamer spinning on an emotional road trip exploring the loss and betrayal of the past, and of themselves. With only 72 hours on hand, they must find the father's lover to get the needed documents before Tamer's permission expires, and they must return to the West Bank. As the story unfolds, the relationship exposes a time when religion was not an issue and love could survive a destroyed landscape, mend broken hearts and tortured minds, and forgive betrayals. A time in this war-torn country when love and hope was not so complicated, and dividing lines did not existBETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH is a fictional movie based loosely on true political events: In 1974, three Palestinian leaders were assassinated in Beirut leaving behind their children. In 1949, hundreds of Mizrahi Jewish babies brought to Israel, were kidnapped. These events are intricately linked into a love story about divorce in 2019 ... this is the story of BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH.

Directors Statement

The inspiration for BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH started in a falafel shop in Haifa, when the Palestinian owner told me about his son refusing a film scholarship in London because "he’s one of the “guardians” of the now destroyed village of Iqrit. I was ashamed to admit I had not heard of Iqrit, and arranged to find this village the following weekend.The trip to Iqrit, three kilometers away from the Lebanese border, and non-existent on Google maps, took us ten hours to reach — and only when my partner finally saw a church steeple in the distance. A heavily treed, winding unpaved hidden road lead us to a partly destroyed church. Two young men and a woman, the grandchildren or perhaps the great-grandchildren of those forced out of Iqrit, greeted us warily. They warmed up when we told them who sent us. Sipping tea, overlooking the gravesite in the distance, they told us the story of Iqrit, how their grandparents watched the destruction of their village, and how they then raised their case to the Israeli High Court in 1952 and won the right of return. However not allowed to implement the court decision, they have to remain physically on the land so it would not be confiscated. They showed us the shack they built for shelter, and told us more stories before their parents came up the pathway, bringing dinner for their children.For the five hour trip back home, I couldn’t stop thinking about these “guardians” and their stories. Their resilience was uplifting, creating hope. The dark times we were living in the Palestinian Territory was suffocating, with hope drifting further and further away with each passing day and each political decision. But somehow in Iqrit I saw light and happiness ... and, in many ways, love. As someone who loves love stories ... perhaps a way to escape and dream - I started to conjure up a story of a couple getting a divorce. How do you love under occupation or when everything has been taken from you? How do you not allow the heartbreak of your everyday life in seeing injustice, not affect your own personal relationships? And what if your partner passed through an unthinkable experience ... can you ever truly divorce what is happening around you from yourself? A love story about divorce in a divided country with a young Palestinian couple forced to stay together for a road trip, took them and myself into many overlooked stories from the forgotten Palestinians inside the state of Israel, to the Syrians and Druze in the Golan Heights, and to the Arab Jews who were brought in from the Arab World.As I was researching, I found one story in particular that grabbed my attention. It was a story which only recently began to make headlines. Reports between 1949-52 indicated that close to 8, 000 Arab Jewish babies were kidnapped from their families when they arrived to the new State, and given to Ashkenazi Jews (European Jews) to be raised as non-Arab Jews. The parents were told that their babies had died, and 18 years later the army draft letters to the same parents began arriving, raising many questions which demanded the truth. This story shook me to the core. I saw very different Palestinian and Israeli dreams awakened by a nightmare. For decades, the discourse on Palestinians and Arab Jews has been misrepresented and oversimplified, creating an askew discussion. For far too long, this side of the story has been told by many others overlooking the Arab (Muslim, Christian and Jewish) perspective, the place and the people involved. This journey that started as one filled with questions, became a journey that needs both the Palestinian and Israeli communities to come together to find answers.Only by hearing stories, seeing different pictures and realities of this conflicted land ... can there truly be an understanding of the place, its people, their dreams, aspirations of dignity and justice.

Director's Biography

Najjar has worked in both documentary and fiction since 2000. Her critically acclaimed debut was the feature film POMEGRANATES AND MYRRH (2009). Her second award winning feature film EYES OF A THIEF (2014) was the Palestinian nomination for the 2015 Oscars Best Foreign Film and the Golden Globe Awards. Her third feature film, a road trip: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH played at the Cairo International Film Festival international competition, and won the Naguib Mahfouz Best Screenplay award before Covid-19.Najjar is now in development for her forth feature FLOWERS ON THE NILE to be shot in Cairo, and is involved with five other established Palestinian filmmakers in a collective piece.A speaker on numerous panels on cinema and a jury member at several international film festivals, she has given numerous Director’s Masterclasses. Also a reader for the Rawi Sundance Lab for Arab scriptwriters, she has been an advisor for the Rawi Sundance Scriptwriter’s Lab. She is working on a workshop for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon interested in filmmaking.In 2000 Najjar and producer Hani Kort established Ustura Films in Palestine with the intention to produce documentaries and fiction films to change stereotypes and present different narratives. The company’s mission has been to build the budding local cinema industry and to support artists in the field. To date they have trained many crew members, offering several head of department positions during its productions over the years with half the trainees being women. In 2012 they opened another branch Jordan.

FILMOGRAPHY:
2020 LIFTING THE MASK, short
2019 BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH
2014 EYES OF A THIEF
2009 GAZA WINTER (as producer)
2009 POMEGRANATES AND MYRRH
2006 YASMINE’S SONG, short
2004 THEY CAME FROM THE EAST, short
2004 BLUE GOLD, short
2002 A BOY CALLED … MOHAMMED, short
2001 JAWHAR AL SILWAN (QUINTESSENCE OF OBLIVION), short
2000 NAIM & WADEE’A, short
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Najwa Najjar

Written by: Najwa Najjar

Produced by: Hani Kort, Adrien Chef, Fahad Jabali, Paul Thiltges, Eggert Ketilsson

Cinematography: Tomas Tomasson

Editing: Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, Amine Jaber

Production Design: Ruba Salameh, Rafat Asad, Christina Schaffer

Costume Design: Shireen Batshon

Make-Up & Hair: Manar Azzeh

Original Score: Tamer Karawan

Sound: Michael Shillings

Visual Effects: Bashir Abu Rabi

Animation: Michael Dimmer

Main Cast: Mouna Hawa (Salma), Firas Nasser (Tamer)

Casting: Emile Saba

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2020