Brand New
Palestine, Norway 2023, 93 min, HD
A Stray Dogs Norway Production
by Mohamed Jabaly

Life is Beautiful - Al Haya Helwa

Palestinian filmmaker Mohamed Jabaly insists on telling stories from his hometown Gaza sharing his own experiences and perspectives, not accepting the boundaries imposed by international politics and rigid bureaucracy. Stuck in the cold and dark arctic of Northern Norway, only able to connect to his family online, he manages to activate his own creativity and the support from his friends to keep up his motto LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

As a young filmmaker, Mohamed is invited to Gaza's sister city Tromsø for a film festival in 2014, but leaving the strip is almost impossible. When he manages to get to Norway finally, the borders to his homeland close indefinitely. It will be seven years before he sees his family again.

Friends back home tell Mohamed to seek asylum but having grown up in the coastal city of Gaza, Mohamed refuses to give up his Palestinian identity. In Norway, he is now considered stateless, and his application for an artist’s visa is rejected as he does not meet the qualification criteria as a self-taught filmmaker. In 2016, he completes his first film AMBULANCE to great international success. Still, Mohamed is denied a work permit and after several appeals, he decides to take his case to court, backed by a growing group of supporters.

In the meantime, Mohamed lives a parallel life online. While he films himself and his friends and colleagues in the snow-covered serenity of the Nordic landscape, the conversations with his family in Gaza provide solace. When Mohamed wins his court case and Gaza is attacked again, the young man experiences unimaginable pain of being separated from his suffering loved ones, now faced with an impossible choice: if he goes back to Gaza, he may never be able to leave again and continue his work as the acclaimed director he has become. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL - AL HAYA HELWA tells of overcoming global politics and rigid bureaucracy, using all the creativity to connect with the world, going forward, with a smile.


“A brilliant film... not a piece of propaganda but of sincere sharing of experience with the audience and that is very valuable”
IDFA Artistic Director Orwa Nyrabia
“Timely account of the deeply personal impact of global destabilisation”
Screen Daily
“There is something poetic about a Palestinian from subtropical Gaza caught between ice and snow. The ending is optimistic and a touch wry”
“... the most unexpected feel-good film of this festival – without ignoring or diminishing the adversities he and especially the people of Gaza are facing”
Business Doc Europe
“Upbeat self portrait of a Palestinian”

“Somehow, even though minutes earlier we could see his despair and depression in the diary footage that forms the core of this documentary, Jabaly always manages to find his smile again. An infectious smile that also cheers and motivates those around him. Managing to make this documentary itself smile, and creating what might be the most unexpected feel-good film of this festival – without ignoring or diminishing the adversities he and especially the people of Gaza are facing.”
“So we can see, and feel, and be reminded that this conflict is not only about statehood, border crossings and enmity. It is about home.”
Business Doc Europe
“The power of Jabali’s film is in its genuinity.”
“The last scene portraying their reunion after seven years of forced absence is beyond powerful: it is one of those moments where a simple, raw hug in a documentary beats any elaborate work of fiction.”
“Fellini may have made a timeless work of fiction, but Jabali’s documentary brought Truth to the world.”
Daraj Media

IDFA (World Premiere, Winner Best Directing), Tromsø (Opening film), Göteborg (Nordic Documentary Competition), World Conference on Statelessness, Ismailia (Official Competition), Human Oslo (Norwegian Competition), Ålesund, FIFDH Geneva (Winner Grand Prix), Nordic Palestinian FF Stockholm, Cinema Politica Sofia, Docville Belgium (Winner Audience Award), One World Prague (Winner Best Film), Arabic Film Days Oslo, ALFILM Berlin, Hot Docs, DOXA Vancouver (Competition Feature Documentary), Krakow (International Competition), Sydney, Biografilm Bologna, DocEdge NZ, SAFAR UK, Otherfield UK