• How did you identify the protagonists?

    In response to calls from Palestinian and Israeli activists on the ground, we began researching the stories behind the headlines of the First Intifada. Because of the nature of a grassroots uprising, much of what we found had been kept underground and was coming to light for the first time. We relied on the snowball effect - each interview led us to other activists – union organizers who planned strikes, farmers who developed “victory gardens” to break reliance on Israeli agriculture, nurses and doctors who organized mobile clinics to reach communities isolated by curfews, community leaders who issued leaflets outlining daily civil resistance actions, and many more. Our research also led us to Israeli journalists who defended the Palestinian women’s leadership and broke their stories in the Israeli press.

    We came to learn in interviews that many of the women leaders had never told their stories, and for good reason. Some wanted to shield their families from experiences that were too painful to revisit. Others feared repercussions in an environment of ongoing political repression. We built deep relationships over those four years. After painstaking research, we agreed that it was time to share their stories and their legacies with the rising generation of activists and organizers. As the title of the film suggests, the film’s narrative arc follows Naila Ayesh, as her personal journey captures so much of the pain of occupation and the galvanizing energy of collective, nonviolent resistance. Her story is the entryway to the lives of several other women activists who collectively capture the courage, resilience and tragedy of the countless mothers, sisters and daughters who sacrificed so much to bring freedom and equality to their communities, and who we believe serve as models for women’s activism today.

  • What were some of the challenges of production?

    Because much of the hidden story of the First Intifada hadn’t been told, we had to dig deep to find footage. We had Palestinian, Israel and American researchers who scoured hundreds of hours of footage and countless pages of archival materials to get to the bottom of some of the more esoteric aspects of the uprising. By and large, the mainstream media at the time missed the story of daily civil resistance efforts and the underground women’s leadership. Much existing footage came from reporters traveling with the Israeli army, so those images captured the military lens of tanks, stone-throwing youth and burning tires. We needed more, and were fortunate to use parts of “Amal, Inam, Naila,” a Finnish documentary on Naila’s life by Iikka Vehkalahti, and gained access to home videos and other archival images of the underground schools, mobile clinics, victory gardens and more.

    We were able to piece the uprising together with intricate oral histories, and ultimately decided to bring in animation to fill some gaps, especially of personal stories. One reason we used this specific style of animation – called Under-Camera animation, in which everything is created by hand – is that we wanted to create a subtle visual experience that brings viewers closer to the story by inviting them to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks. The simplicity of the animation makes it possible for each audience member to put themselves into the narrative, which will hopefully allow for a variety of experiences and interpretations of the film.

    Finally, the women we featured are still living under occupation, some of them under siege in Gaza. This meant that production was hampered by checkpoints, border crossings, visas and electricity outages. Even today, many of the Palestinian women will be unable to travel internationally for screenings or to speak at events. It’s a feature of production in Palestine, one that offers a glimpse into the daily challenges of life under occupation.


    Just Vision has built an extensive network over the past 14 years through our strategic public engagement campaigns, especially for our award-winning documentaries, Budrus, My Neighbourhood and Encounter Point. In addition to screening at festivals across the world, our prior films were shown in theatres in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and beyond and were broadcast in over 40 countries around the world.

    We’re also excited to embark on a partnership with Fork Films and THIRTEEN/WNET to include Naila and the Uprising in the four-part Women, War & Peace II series. The series is slated to have its exclusive US broadcast premiere on PBS in 2018, as well as broad international distribution. This is the second installment of the Women War & Peace series, which highlights how women in contemporary conflict zones risk their lives and lift their communities in pursuit of freedom and justice. The first installment of the series in 2011 – which included groundbreaking films like Pray the Devil Back to Hell – exceeded the expectations of PBS and the series producers.

    We will follow festival, theatrical and broadcast releases with targeted outreach across Palestine, Israel and the US. Our previous public engagement campaigns have worked at the grassroots with faith communities, universities, youth groups and more while engaging decision makers and policymakers, including those of the European Parliament, US Congress, White House, United Nations, US State Department and beyond, as well as influential international platforms including the World Economic Forum, TED and Skoll World Forum.

    For more information or to organize screenings in the US or Israel, please be in touch with Emma Alpert, Just Vision’s Public Engagement Manager. To organize screenings in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, please be in touch with Rula Salameh, Just Vision's Outreach and Education Director in Palestine.