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Ibtisam Mara'ana-Menuhin (Arabic: ابتسام مراعنة منوحين, Hebrew: אִבְּתִיסָאם מראענה) is a Palestinain film director and producer[1] living in Jaffa, Israel.[2]

Ibtisam Mara'ana
ابتسام مراعنة منوحين
Mara'ana, filming
BornOctober 14, 1975

In 2017, Mara'ana received an honorary degree from the Open University.


Ibtisam Mara’ana was born in 1975 in Fureidis, an Arab-Muslim working class village in northern Israel. She attended film school at Givat Haviva. In 2000, she initiated a film and television program at her former high school in Fureidis.

In 2003, Mara’ana founded Ibtisam Films to produce documentaries that investigate the borders and boundaries of Palestinian and Israeli society with a focus on women and minorities. Her work explores gender, class, racism, and collective and individual identity. Her films show the plight of Arab-Palestinians living as a minority within Israel, while at the same time, critique deep-rooted practices within Arab-Palestinian society. Her work has been screened on television and at festivals worldwide.[3]

In 2009, Mara’ana was nominated as a political candidate of the Meretz party for the Israeli parliamentary elections, obtaining the 12th position on the candidate list. She later withdrew her candidacy prior to the elections after Meretz expressed support for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.[4]

Mara’ana teaches at various educational institutions, including the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. She regularly speaks at universities, organizations, and conferences throughout Israel and abroad. She is a prominent feminist activist, and has published numerous articles in Israeli newspapers. In 2009, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz named Mara’ana as one of the 10 most influential women in Israel.

In 2011, Druze-Israeli Jamila "Maya" Fares, the sister of Angelina Fares, the subject of Mara’ana's Lady Kul El Arab documentary, was murdered in an honour killing. In response to the murder, Mara’ana created a foundation to support Arab women fleeing gender-based violence in Israel.[5][6]

In June 2014, Mara’ana married Boaz Menuhin, a Jewish Israeli man.[2] The couple has a daughter. The marriage was sealed in Tel Aviv in a nonreligious ceremony, and is therefore not officially recognised in Israel,[2] where family law is predominantly religious.


  • Paradise Lost (2003). Mara’ana traces the hidden history of her village, Fureidis, investigating issues of national identity and womanhood within traditional Arab village life.[7]
  • Al-Jiser (2004), a look into the lives of residents of the Jisr az-Zarqa village in Israel who face poverty and discrimination. The film focuses on the struggle of a group of young single women who are determined to bring social change to their village.[8]
  • Badal (2006). 'A Badal deal marriage' usually means when a brother and sister from one family marry a sister and brother from another family – interlocking the two couples forever. Divorce on the part of one couple will immediately lead to the divorce of the other part of the deal. This is common practice in Muslim families in the Middle East. The film follows a family during the process of putting such a deal together. It portrays the lives of Palestinian women living within Israel: their struggles in being a part of their traditional society vs. the quest to maintain their full rights as women and citizens of a Jewish state.[9]
  • Three Times Divorced (2007) deals with the fate of a Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip who marries an Arab Bedouin from Israel. After bearing her husband six children, he divorces her and maintains custody of the children, while the woman, whose residency status in Israel becomes uncertain, is left with nothing.[10]
  • Lady Kul El-Arab (2008). Angelina Fares, a young woman from the Druze village of Sajur in northern Israel and the country's first Druze model, becomes a finalist in the 2007 Miss Israel beauty pageant. Facing severe pressure and death threats from her village, Angelina must decide whether to go forward with her fashion world dreams or to resign. The story follows Angelina's struggle to reconcile the traditions and values of her society with her bold efforts to choose her own way in life.[11]
  • 77 Steps (2010) documents the personal journey of the director who leaves her Arab-Muslim village to live in Tel Aviv. In an attempt to find an apartment in the city, she encounters discrimination and rejection by most landlords because of her Arab origins. She finally finds an apartment and meets her neighbor – Jonathan, a Jewish-Canadian and recent immigrant to Israel. A complicated love story develops.[12]
  • Write down, I Am an Arab (2014) is a biographical documentary film about the national Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The movie covers Mahmoud Darwish's love letters to his Jewish girlfriend from the past, Tamar Ben-Ami, his marriage with Rana Kabbani, his first wife, and his part in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The movie contains interviews with Ahmad Darwish (Mahmoud's brother) and with his fellow poets and writers as well as with Samih al-Qasim, who was Mahmoud Darwish's friend.[13]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Year Award Category Work Result
2003 Docaviv Best Debut Film Paradise Lost Won
Best Cinematography Paradise Lost Won
International Women's Film Festival in Rehovot Best Documen Paradise Lost Won
2005 Lady Globes 50 Most Influential Women in Israel[14] Won
Jerusalem Film Festival Film Art Prize Badal Won
2006 HotDocs Best Mid-Length Documentary[15] Badal Won
Sole e Luna Doc Fest First Prize[16] Badal Won
Jerusalem Film Festival Spirit of Freedom Badal Won
Award of the Mayor of Olomouc, Czech Republic Badal Won
2007 Docaviv Best Film[17] Three Times Divorced Won
Award of the Israeli Film Academy Best Documentary Three Times Divorced Nominated
2008 Fippa-Biarritz International Film Festival Silver Award[18] Three Times Divorced Won
IDFA Special Jury Award Silver Wolf Competition[19] Lady Kul el-Arab Won
The Marker 40 Most Influential Women in Israel Won
International Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi Best Director Won
2010 International Documentary Association IDA Award Continuing series, Wide Angle (2002)
for episodes: "Contestant No.2", "Heart of Jenin",
"Crossing Heaven' s Border", and "Once Upon a Coup"
2019 Sami Michael Award for Equality and Social Justice Won


  1. ^ Mara'ana Menuhin, Ibtisam (May 10, 2018). "To Be a Palestinian Documentary Filmmaker in Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Alona Ferber, When the Palestinian National Poet Fell in Love With a Jew, in Haaretz, 4 June 2014 [1]
  3. ^ "IMDB Page".
  4. ^ סניור, אלי. "בשל המבצע בעזה: מספר 12 במרצ פורשת". Ynet. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Are women's rights on the Arab agenda?". Haaretz.
  6. ^ "Fund for Women Fleeing Violence".
  7. ^ Paradise Lost
  8. ^ Al-Jiser
  9. ^ Badal
  10. ^ Three Times Divorced
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ 77 Steps
  13. ^ Write Down, I Am an Arab
  14. ^ "Lady Globes: 50 most influential women".
  15. ^ HotDocs awards 2006
  16. ^ "Sole e Luna" Doc Fest
  17. ^ Docaviv 2011 Jury
  18. ^ "Three Times Divorced at FIPA".
  19. ^ "Lady Kul el Arab at IDFA".

External linksEdit