Norsk filminstitutt

Mohamed Jabaly was awarded Best Director in the International Competition for his film Life is Beautiful at IDFA, the world’s largest documentary film festival.  The award ceremony took place in Amsterdam on November 16th, 2023.

Mohamed Jabaly IDFA Pris.jpg

In Life is Beautiful we meet Mohamed Jabaly as he is visiting a film festival in Tromsø in 2014. While he is there the borders to Gaza close and Mohamed cannot return home from arctic winter Norway. Little does he know that it will be seven years before he can see his family again. The hard struggle and long for his family have now resulted in this personal and highly relevant feature film documentary.  
Jury comment:  
A timely cinematic expression of the universal need to be recognized in our full humanity. A compelling indictment of the bureaucratic and political structures that deny that. A directorial tone that, almost impossibly, manages to find hope and humor amid unimaginable pain. An urgent call for freedom, freedom of movement, freedom of opportunity, and the freedom to pursue our dreams.  

The jury members were Emilie Bujès (artistic director, Visions du Réel), Francesco Giai Via (festival director, programmer, selection committee Venice Film Festival). Tabitha Jackson (independent media consultant), Ada Solomon (producer, Romania), Xiaoshuai Wang (director, producer, China) 

About Life is Beautiful

While waiting for the situation to change, Mohamed’s friends back home tell him to seek asylum or get married to stay in Norway. But Mohamed refuses to give up his Palestinian identity and insists on being recognized for his work. After being denied a work permit after several appeals - despite his film Ambulance achieving international success - he decides to take his case to court, backed by a growing group of supporters. As this unfolds, Mohamed lives a parallel life online, staying connected with family in Gaza. They provide solace, but when Gaza is attacked again, Mohamed experiences the pain of being separated from his loved ones and is faced with an impossible choice: if he goes back to Gaza, he may never be able to leave again and continue his work as an internationally recognized film director, sharing his stories with the world.  
Life is Beautiful is a story of overcoming a life put on hold by international politics and rigid bureaucracy, told from the inside by a director who uses all his creativity to connect with the world and forge a way forward.  

Production and international sales 

The film is produced for Stray Dogs Norway by Kristine Ann Skaret and Sarah-Winge Sørensen. Mohanan Yaqubi is the Executive Producer. The international sales agent is First Hand Films. Festival distribution by Norwegian Film Institute. 

About IDFA 

IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, this year takes place between November 8th and 19th and is considered one of the world's most important documentary film festivals. In 2022, IDFA presented over 290 films from more than 80 countries. The festival particularly focuses on promoting inclusion and giving a voice to underrepresented filmmakers.