12 Great Films For Levantine Arabic Learners You Can Watch For Free
If you’re a Levantine Arabic learner who enjoys watching films, then this list is for you.
Films are a great way to take a break from other Arabic language learning resources. They are also an enjoyable way to pick up new phrases and practice listening comprehension.
In this list, I’ll be sharing with you 12 films in Levantine Arabic that are available on video sharing sites such as YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo.
Beginners will enjoy the ones that contain subtitles while those at intermediate level and beyond might want to challenge themselves by watching the films that do not contain subtitles.
1) Captain Abu Raed
This is a touching film about an airport janitor named Abu Raed who is mistaken for a pilot by the neighbourhood children after being spotted wearing a Captain’s hat that he found in the trash.
Soon he finds himself telling make believe stories about his travels to excited children with bright eager eyes who look up to him as a hero.
However, a boy named Murad, discovers Abu Raed’s true identity and seeks to expose him to the others.
The plot thickens when an unlikely but special friendship form between them which would eventually change both of their lives.
This film has won numerous awards and is available on YouTube with English subtitles.
So if you’re learning Jordanian Arabic, this film is a must-watch!
This film is recommended for those interested in exploring a lesser known side of Jordan.
Set in the year 1900, the film begins with the arrival of Circassians into Ottoman Transjordan.
The main plot revolves around the love story between a Circassian woman and a Bedouin man which emerges amidst tense conflicts that exists between the two communities.
Ever since the resettlement of the Circassian population during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Jordanians with Circassian roots form one of the ethnic minority groups living in Jordan.
So if you’re a big history and culture buff, be sure to check Cherkess on YouTube which also contains English subtitles.
3) When Monaliza Smiled
This film is a romantic comedy set in Amman that revolves around the life of a Jordanian woman named Monaliza.
Although Monaliza rarely smiles for she hardly sees any reason to, she slowly finds herself drawn towards Hamdi, a cheerful and animated Egyptian immigrant who works in the same office as her.
While Hamdi finally manages to put a smile on Monaliza’s face, Monaliza realises that that are obstacles to overcome in order to be together with Hamdi.
This film is not only enjoyable and charming but also reveals the complexities of Arab society in Jordan.
4) The Taste of Lemon
This film revolves around the lives of Palestinians and Iraqi refugees living in a dilapidated house in a Damascene neighbourhood.
Syrian producer, Nidal Seijari, was inspired to create the film based on the visit of UNHCR Goodwill ambassador and celebrity, Angelina Jolie, to Damascus back in 2009 to meet with Iraqi refugees.
Personal narratives of the characters weave alongside their short-lived anticipation and preoccupation of having Jolie drop by their homes reveal the harsh madness of everyday realities living in exile.
All in all, the film seeks to explore complex yet delicate issues that are present in the refugee crisis.
The Taste of Lemon is available on YouTube and contains English subtitles.
5) Damascus with Love
The film is about the search for identity as well as the rediscovery of one’s beloved city.
Years after her family’s immigration to Italy, a Syrian Jewish woman returns to Damascus in the hope of re-uniting with an old Christian lover whom she thought had died.
Damascus with Love is a moving tale of love across religious lines interwoven with nostalgia and life’s hard choices.
It is currently available on Vimeo and comes with English subtitles.
6) Samir Zikra’s films
There are a few of Samir Zikra’s films available on YouTube that come with English subtitles.
Samir Zikra is a Syrian screenwriter and director who has been directing films since the 70s. Some of his films have gone on to win several awards.
His more recent films include Public Relations and Guards of Silence which were released in 2005 and 2010 respectively.
Samir Zikra’s films will be a great starting point for Levantine Arabic learners who are interested in older cinematography and films produced decades ago.
7) Al Makhdu’un
Al Makhdu’un, also known as ‘The Dupes’, is a black and white film released in 1973.
The film revolves around the journey of three Palestinian refugees’ attempt to smuggle into Kuwait in search of a better life.
The journey is a risky one where the men, at the mercy, of malicious smugglers, have little option but to hide in an empty tank amidst the sweltering heat to get across checkpoints.
The film is essentially an allegory of the wider Palestinian struggle and is indeed a cinematic masterpiece which has won multiple awards.
It is now available on YouTube with English subtitles.
8) West Beirut
West Beirut is a coming of age film about two Muslim teenagers who befriended a Christian girl and their adventures in a city that is divided along religious lines amidst a civil war.
With school closed following a bus attack, the trio finds plenty of time to explore the changing landscape of Beirut and experience all the different facets of a time where
tension and conflicts reign.
All in all, the film is a chilling story with unforgettable characters inspired by the director’s experiences growing up during the Lebanese 1975 civil war.
The entire film is available on YouTube and comes with English subtitles.
Mahbas also known as Soilitaire is a romantic comedy where humour is used to address the complexities that exists between Lebanese-Syrian relations.
When the daughter of a Lebanese family returns home to her village in Lebanon with her Syrian suitor, things began to take a turn for the worse.
There is no hiding that the bride’s mother, Therese, holds deep resentment towards Syrians since her beloved brother was killed by a Syrian bomb two decades ago.
The film revolves around the two families’ interaction with one another as they try to deal with the underlying tension that seeks to tear the couple apart.
Mahbas is available on YouTube and comes with English subtitles.
It is definitely a must watch for Levantine Arabic learners to gain a better understanding of contemporary Lebanese-Syrian relations.
10) Paradise Now
This Oscar nominated film revolves around two young Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited to be suicide bombers and the resulting commotion when the operation did not go according to plan.
This film is a thriller filled with suspense, paranoia and plot twists that gives viewers a peek into the minds of suicide bombers.
The plot heightened when the two men questions the justification of their mission at the final stage of the operation.
Paradise Now is guaranteed to keep you sitting at the edge of your seat.
It is available on YouTube with English subtitles albeit with a distorted screen size.
Directed by the same man who produced Paradise Now, this Oscar nominated film is a thriller about a young Palestinian man named Omar who is forced to collaborate with Israeli intelligence after being captured following the murder of an Israeli soldier.
Suspicion and betrayal hang heavy in the air and threaten to tear apart the friendships between Omar and his childhood friends, Tarek and Amjad.
The plot thickens when both Omar and Amjad have feelings for Tarek’s younger sister and Omar is left to make difficult choices in order to survive under the Israeli occupation.
The film has gone on to win several awards and is now available on Vimeo with English subtitles.
This film revolves around the everyday life of a religiously mixed community in the city of Jaffa where crime and hatred are part of the social fabric.
Various narratives of multiple characters are interwoven to reveal the gruesome reality of a never ending cycle of violence due to the religious and class divides that plague the society.
Co-produced by a Palestinian and an Israeli filmmaker, Ajami is a powerful yet harrowing film that forces the audience to view the conflict from different perspectives.
It is available on YouTube without English subtitles.
At the time of writing, all films mentioned are available to watch online.
However, you can never be sure that they will remain there forever.
So hurry and start watching the ones that catch your interest. Be sure to make full use of your time by having a notebook and a pen by your side.
This way, you can jot down new phrases and expand your Levantine Arabic vocabulary.
Happy watching and learning!
This post was contributed by Harilyn Tahir.