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Maha Haj (Arabic: مها حاج; born in 1970) is an Israeli film director and screenwriter.

Maha Haj
مها حاج
Head shot of Maha Haj, she has shoulder-length curly brown hair. The background is blurry trees
OccupationFilm director and screenwriter


Haj was born in Nazareth.[1] Her father is a pharmacist, and her mother a teacher for hearing-impaired children.[2] She was educated in the Baptist Christian school in Nazareth, though both her parents were communist activists.[2] Under her father's influence she began studying pharmacy science, but after year switched to literature, and completed her BA in English and Arabic literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and her MA in language and literature at Haifa University. She began working as a teacher, but was more interested in her art and writing, which she practiced in her free time.[2]

She began her cinematic career working as an set designer, script doctor, and art director on such films as Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains (2009), Ziad Doueiri's The Attack (2012); followed by Adi Adouan's Arabani (2014) and Rafael Najari's Over the HIlltop (2014).[3]

In 2009, she wrote and directed the short film Burtuqal, which was released to critical acclaim,[4] and was screened at many international film festivals,[2] and then the documentary film Within These Walls (2010).[1]

She achieved international recognition in 2016 with her film Personal Affairs, which had its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, in the Un Certain Regard section.[5][6] She both wrote and directed the film, which won Best Feature Film at the Haifa International Film Festival. In their reasoning, the judges wrote: "It is a creation that is entirely love of humankind, fluent and funny, captivating and kindhearted, a contemporary human mosaic, both local and universal."[7]

Haj has been outspoken about the difficulties she has faced getting backing for films as a Palestinian.[8] Former culture minister Limor Livnat created regulations according to which films receiving public funds must be presented as strictly Israeli, not as Palestinian-Israeli, causing filmmakers like Haj, who is both Palestinian and an Israeli citizen, politically and ethically.[2] “I’m a Palestinian living in Israel and nobody should oblige me to write otherwise,” she says. The decision of both Haj and her producer to sign the necessary document took a long time and “a lot of heartache”.[8] She calls current culture minister Miri Regev's efforts to limit funding for any film she feels presents Israel negatively "a harsh form of censorship".[8]


Year Nominated work Category Result Notes
2016 Personal Affairs Best Film, Haifa International Film Festival Won
2016 Personal Affairs Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival Nominated
2016 Personal Affairs Caméra d'Or, Cannes Film Festival Nominated
2016 Personal Affairs Best Film, International Film Festival of India Nominated
2016 Personal Affairs Special Mention – International Feature Film, Zurich Film Festival Won
2016 Personal Affairs Golden Eye – Best International Feature Film, Zurich Film Festival Nominated
2016 Personal Affairs Critics' Award, Montpellier Film Festival Won
2016 Personal Affairs Best Debut Feature, Philadelphia Film Festival Won


Year Title Role Notes
2009 The Time That Remains Set design, art director
2009 Burtuqal Director, writer Short film
2010 Within These Walls Director, writer Documentary film
2012 The Attack Set design, art director
2013 A Strange Course of Events Production designer
2014 Personal Matters Director Short film
2014 Arabani Set design, art director
2014 Over the HIlltop Set design, art director
2016 Personal Affairs Director, writer


  1. ^ a b "Maha Haj". Festival Scope Pro. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e נירית אנדרמן (16 February 2017). "מהא חאג' רצתה שסרטה "עניינים אישיים" יהיה לא פוליטי. אז היא רצתה". Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Maha Haj". Boston Palestine Film Festival. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  4. ^ Brown, Hannah (18 March 2017). "THE LONG ROAD TO 'PERSONAL AFFAIRS'". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  5. ^ McCarthy, Todd (5 December 2016). "'Personal Affairs': Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Grierson, Tim (12 May 2016). "'Personal Affairs': Cannes Review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  7. ^ נירית אנדרמן (23 October 2016). "הזוכה בפסטיבל הסרטים בחיפה: "עניינים אישיים" של הבמאית הפלסטינית מהא חאג'". Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Joseph, Anne (May 11, 2017). "Film-maker Maha Haj: A director's dilemma". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved April 25, 2019.

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