Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 28, 2011.


"Habibi," a story of forbidden love, is the first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years.

Habibati | Darlings,

Thank you for visiting "Habibi" at Kickstarter.

About My Project
"Habibi," a story of forbidden love, is the first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years. Two students in the West Bank are forced to return home to Gaza, where their love defies tradition. To reach his lover, Qays grafittis poetry across town.

The full Arabic title is "Habibi Rasak Kharban," which literally translates as "darling, something's wrong with your head." The film is a modern re-telling of the ancient romance, "Majnun Layla," which dates back to 7th century Arabia. I incorporate into this film the body of poetry attributed to the man who, according to legend, went crazy out of love for Layla.

What I Fundraise For
I have launched this Kickstarter campaign is to raise money to complete the film. Your contribution will go to the final phase of post-production (onlining, color correction, and output). With your support, I will be able to complete this film and distribute it to festivals and elsewhere.

This film has been made 100% through grants and donations.

How It Works
Your identity as a donor, and how much you donated, will not be shared publicly on the Kickstarter campaign page.

If our goal of $15,000 isn’t met before the deadline, we don't receive any of the pledges. Your credit or debit card will not be charged.

We (The "Habibi" Film) can accept funding from all over the world, and if we receive more than $15,000--the excess will go into distribution costs. The more we raise, the more resources we will have to make the best impact we can with this film.

Why I Make This Film
I first visited Gaza in 2002 when I was shooting my documentary "Forbidden to Wander." It was then I saw children acting out the romance of "Majnun Layla." There, in an empty gymnasium in Khan Younis, I witnessed a teenage Qays wade through imaginary desert sands, looking for Layla.

In 2002, the Israeli army destroyed fields of homes and staged aerial bombings. The heat was overwhelming. But even in this atmosphere, everywhere I filmed kids stopped by to give me their "hellos." It was also at this time that Mohammed, a local theater director, joined me to help
shoot my documentary; he took complete care of me while respecting my space as a woman. I didn't pay him, give him a place to stay or even provide him with food. Unexpectedly, I fell in love with his immense kindness, his heroic commitment to art in a situation where most people
are just trying to survive-- that is to say, I fell in love with him.

The experience of seeing the children's performance of "Majnun Layla," and of finding love in Gaza, compelled me to retell the legend in the setting of modern-day Gaza. The film begins in 2001. Gaza has come under full closure -- Palestinians are not allowed to travel in or out via Israel. Two college students who have been studying in the West Bank -- Qays and Layla -- have been forced to return to Gaza. There, within the limits of checkpoints and societal rules, Layla is inaccessible to Qays, and he descends into insanity.

"Habibi" provides a depiction of an evolving Palestinian society, focusing on a love affair and a poetic tradition while situating the story in the reality of Palestinian resistance. By bringing to film the poetic parable, I state that at the core of Arab society is a desire for an expression of love, not violence.

The protagonists struggle with a longing for romantic, divine love. It is this longing that makes their experience one that all audiences can understand.

If you have any questions about "Habibi," feel free to write to me via Kickstarter or the contact page at

Shukran | Thank you!

Susan Youssef


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Funding period

- (30 days)