The Idol


Gaza. Synonymous to so many with conflict, destruction and despair but to Mohammed Assaf, and his sister Nour, Gaza is their home and their playground. It’s where they, along with their best friends Ahmad and Omar, play music, football and dare to dream big. Their band might play on second hand, beaten up instruments but their ambitions are sky-high. For Mohammed and Nour, nothing less than playing the world famous Cairo Opera Hall will do. It might take them a lifetime to get there but, as Mohammed will find out, some dreams are worth living for.

Along the way, Mohammed will experience tragedy and loss. The world around him will shatter. Through it all, however, he will somehow retain the hope that his voice will somehow deliver him from the pain that surrounds him and bring joy to others. He sings at weddings, he drives a taxi to pay for his university studies. Even as the siege around Gaza intensifies, the prison around them ever more forbidding, Mohammed knows he has a rare gift. To make people smile and forget their troubles.

And so, in front of him on TV one evening lies an impossible dream: the auditions for Arab Idol, the most popular show in the Arab world, are taking place in Cairo. The borders are closed. There is no way out. Somehow, he finds a way and makes it in front of the judges in Egypt. From there, destiny awaits, a chance to change his life and give a voiceless people the greatest feeling of all: the freedom to love, live and feel free.


Official Oscar Submission for Best Foreign Language Film - Palestine

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Palestine

Language(s): Arabic

Subtitles: English

Written by: Hany Abu-Assad with Sameh Zoabi

Director: Hany Abu-Assad

Producer: Ali Jaafar, Amira Diab

Director of Photography: Ehab Assal

Editor: Eyas Salman

Composer: Habib Shehadeh Hanna

Executive Producers: Tiziana Sousou, Hamed Mokhtar, Bashar Masri, Badr Jafar, Sassan Ahsani, Khalil Amiouni, Gisel Kordestani, Mufid Shawwa, Anick Poirier, Harold Van Lier

Cast:  Qais Atallah, Hiba Atallah, Ahmad Qassim, Abd-Elkarim Abu-Barakeh,Teya Hussein,Tawfeek Barhom, Dima Awawdeh, Ahmad Al-Rokh, Saber Shreim, Amer Hlehel, Manal Awwad, Waleed Abd Elsalem, Eyad Hourani

Director's Statement

I always ask myself why I want to make a movie and spend almost two years of my life working very hard to complete that movie. In the case of Arab Idol, the answer was clear and simple. The story of this young man, Muhammad Assaf, is such an incredible story that even somebody like me who, just three weeks earlier had won the Jury Prize of Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, was more excited for Assaf to win Arab Idol than for myself. I was caught on camera between thousands of people gathered in the square in Nazareth to hear the final results for Arab Idol; I was jumping in excitement like a little kid, and I have not had this kind of excitement for a very long time. When Ali Jaafar offered for me to direct Muhammad Assaf’s story, my arms were covered in goosebumps. I knew immediately that I would do everything to make this story a great movie.

I see Arab Idol as the story of fighting and the will of surviving under extreme circumstances. It’s a story of hope and success, where a brother and a sister were able to make from their disadvantages an advantage, and from the impossible possible, who come from nowhere to overcome all odds, beating poverty, oppression, and occupation. They have the ability to convert ugliness to beauty, which, in the end, is the power behind all art and the fuel to nurture hope.