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The story of a unique gesture of peace

THE HEART OF JENIN tells the true story of Ishmael Khatib, whose 12-year-old son Ah-med was killed in 2005 in the Yenin refugee camp by bullets fired by Israeli soldiers. After the doctors at the hospital have only been able to diagnose Ahmed’s brain death, the Palestinian Ishmael decides to donate his son’s organs to Israeli children and thus save their lives.


Original languages : English, Arabic, HebroSubtitles : English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Hebro, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Bulgarian, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Czech, Turkish, Ukrainian, HungarianLength : 90 minutesRelease : 2024


The Story

It is a painful and at the same time liberating journey, because through the children Ismael also comes very close to his son again, as moving as it is lastingly impressive, THE HEART OF JENIN tells of a deeply human gesture at the moment of the greatest tragedy. And of the fact that hope has a chance even when the situation seems hopeless. In 2005, 12-year-old Ahmed lived with his family in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. 15,000 people live there in a confined space under difficult living conditions and have been doing so for many years. Jenin is a political powder keg that threatens to explode at any time. Most suicide bombers who carry out attacks in Israel come from here. For the Israeli army, Jenin is a large danger zone, which is why it is militarily present here, and for the celebration of the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan, Ahmed wants to buy a new tie. His mother sends him to a nearby shop around lunchtime, but on the way there Ahmed meets two friends. One of them has a toy gun with him, and so the children play war, just like children play “robber and gendarme” in the village.

“A message of hope.“

New York Times

“ Hard to watch without a throat choking with tears.“


“A heart beats for Palestine“


“The Heart of Jenin” is open heart surgery on the afflicted hearts of those involved in the general conflict. The delicate balance between heartrending sadness and black despair is deeply moving, yet the story reveals a beacon of hope in an otherwise apparently hopeless time.”

Kino Knio

The story continues…

Cinema Jenin – The story of a dream

While Marcus Vetter´s film “The Heart of Jenin” is celebrated internationally and was awarded the German Film Price, Jenin is still lacking a place where its very own story could be told. The only cinema in town was closed more than twenty years ago. Parallel, the children from the cultural center that Ishmael opened after his son’s death wanted to produce their first short films, only to realize that they had no place to show it in. The decision to reopen the cinema emerged and Project Cinema Jenin was born. Marcus Vetter, Fakhri Hamad and Ismael Khatib, together with a group of enthusiastic locals and foreigners, were working tirelessly to bring the old cinema back to life.

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Three films tell stories of freedom and peace

The three films “Heart of Jenin”, “Cinema Jenin” and “After the Silence” wonderfully tell the complex history of Palestine using the example of the city of Jenin. There are three films of hope, but also of despair. But above all, these stories show that it is worth dreaming.

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Director´s Statement

by Marcus Vetter and Leon Geller

Marcus Vetter

In autumn 2007 I was called by EI-KON in Berlin, whether I wanted to join the project DAS HERZVON JENINmit. Leon Geller had already shot the hospital scenes and other sequences in 2005, and I quickly agreed: the subject matter appealed to me, another reason to work with an Israeli director.

We often had different views, especially on the issue and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, because Leon Geller is Jewish. Above all, he wanted to tell the story of the relationship between Ismael Khatib and the Druze girl Samah, who received the heart of the boy who was killed. My goal, on the other hand, was to follow all the stations of my father’s journey and also to show the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, not to mention the current war in Gaza, which has given the film special attention and perhaps set a sign of peace,

THE HEART OF JENIN can help to break down prejudices. The interesting thing is that you only get to know friendly and fine people in the film. For example, there is this Druze family whose daughter received the donor heart, or the Bedouin family with the happy father who always laughs. For me the whole ensemble of protagonists is something very special and helps us to sharpen our view for other people and cultures.

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Leon Geller

The tragic death of twelve-year-old Ahmed Khatib plunges a family in Jenin into great despair. But in the first decisive hours after his death, his father Ismael was faced with a big decision. He decided for “life” and again turned his personal suffering into a life-saving miracle. I heard about Ishmael’s story on the morning of Ahmed’s death. And the very same evening I started filming this fantastic course of events, which eventually led to the operation of the children, who in between are allowed to live happily with the donated organs. The families of these children owe thanks to Is-mael Khatib because he gave them life; we owe thanks to Ismael Khatib because he gave us hope.

Leon Geller was born and raised in New Jersey, USA. He later moved to Israel and enrolled at the film school in Tel Aviv, where he graduated in 2006. His graduate short film won 14 international awards and earned him an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Academy Award nomination. He is currently working for Israeli television and on a new feature film.

Festivals & Awards


2008 Jerusalem Film Festival
2008 61st Locarno International Film Festival
2008 Toronto International Film Festival
2008 Hamptons International Film Festival
2008 51st DOK Film Festival Leipzig
2008 Valladolid International Film Festival
2008 6th Warsaw Jewish Film Festival
2008 Dubai International Film Festival
2009 Doc Point Helsinki Documentary Film Festival
2009 Cinema for Peace
2009 Amnesty Intern. Movies that Matter Festival
2009 Yamagata IDFF
2009 Refugee Filmfestival Tokio
2009 Korean IDF


2010 German Film-Award – LOLA
2009 Valladolid International Film Festival
Section “Time of History” 1st Price
2009 International Filmfestival Leipzig
DEFA Award “Best Documentary”
2008 Dubai International Filmfestival
Audience Award / Peoples Choice Award
2009 Cinema for Peace Award
for the “Most Valuable Documentary of the Year”
2009 Movies that matter Amnesty International Audiance Award

Press & Reviews

‘Heart of Jenin’ Good for Palestinian Hearts
Global News Network

In “Hert of Jenin” injustice finds bromides

Heart of Jenin – Stranger than Fiction

Documentary: “The Heart of Jenin”

Kindness as vengeance in “Heart of Jenin”
Electronic Infada

“Heart” beats for Palestine

Review: ‘The Heart of Jenin’

Hope And Pain In Film About Palestinian Organ Donor
New York Times

Review: Heart of Jenin


EIKON in Co-Production with South-West Radio (SWR)

Marcus Vetter (left) was born in 1967 and studied Economics and Media Theory & Practice. Since 1994, he has been working as a TV editor, producer and director. He has directed numerous documentaries which were screened at international festivals and won three Adolf-Grimme-Awards. His films include: THE TUNNEL (1999), WAR GAMES (2002), THE UNBREAKABLES (2006), MY FATHER THE TURK (2006), HEART OF JENIN (2008), HUNGER (2009), and CINEMA JENIN (2012).

Leon Geller (right) focuses all of his films on social issues. His work includes TV productions as well as features, including the award-winning films HEAVY TWENTY, SHEVET VOICE, and ROADS, which was also nominated for an Academy Award in the student’s short section during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York 2008.

Year of production BRD/Israel 2008
2K Directors Cut 2024
Lenght 89 minutes
Format HD/35 mm/DCP
A production of EIKON Süddwest
In co-production with Filmperspektive GmbH
Director Marcus Vetter, Leon Geller
Editor Saskia Metten
Director of photography Nadav Hekselmann
Producers Ernst Ludwig Ganzert, Ulli Pfau
Line producers Kristin Holst, Yariv Mozer
Commissioning editors Gudrun Hanke El Ghomri (SWR) Martina Zöllner (SWR)
Supported by MFG Baden-Württemberg
Distribution Arsenal Film
World Sales Telepool
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