Palestinian International Film Festival
Documentary (Ireland / Canada)
Duration: 92 minutes
“There are few places in the world that evoke such a strong visceral response as Gaza. It is somewhere that seems immediately familiar, known throughout the world from news flashes beamed onto our TV screens. Yet in truth we know almost nothing about this tiny strip of land on the shores of the Mediterranean.” said the Directors, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell. “From the very beginning we wanted to address the disparity between perception and reality. Having spent years working on the ground, we knew that Gaza was so much more than its portrayal in the media. This unique and vibrant land, rich in culture and history, is home to a people who are oppressed and dehumanized but who are also resilient and strong, and who want nothing more than to live normal lives. We thought about finding single stories, which in their telling would encapsulate the essence of what it is like to live in Gaza. But we decided that there are too many stories to tell and to take that approach would limit our ability to reflect the unique collective spirit of almost two million people, doing their best under the most extreme circumstances imaginable.”
Understanding the historical context of a land surrounded by dead-ends and an open sea that confines the 75 x 7 mile (825 square kilometre) area to 2 million people is the only way to make sense of the hopelessness that is presented to us often dumbed down in the mainstream depictions of media. A generations have grown up or have been born into three civil wars in the last decade. It’s the collateral damage of discord between Egypt and Israel who have left millions in limbo after sealing their borders. The economy is a shambles, medical supplies and basic living provisions intermittent due to restricted access and lockdowns between the borders. An entire civilization being raised on a foundation of violence and uncertainty, Palestinian and Israelis who fled earlier warms still living as refugees since the 1940s.
Ahmed Jamal Al Aqraa is just 14, his father has 3 wives and he is one of 40 siblings. We see the hopes and dreams of adolescence untainted with the realities against the hopelessness of young men not much older than Ahmed who are in a constant cycle of desperation making repeated attempts at attacking protectors of the border.
“They wake up every morning with no future on the horizon” says the attending medic whose daily routine includes the stabilizing of those shot and injured at the borders. “Today, tomorrow and yesterday are all the same. Perhaps the only outlet here is the fence. The borders. Someone has to listen to the screams of these young men”.
Karma has aspirations to work in Political Science and wonders what becomes of her studies should she not be able to complete them and the country goes into war again. Her mother, an Israeli descendant born in Gaza remembers a less turbulent carefree and progressive city.
We’re introduced to former business owners who tell the stories of what they needed to do to survive, a man who went to prison as many in the city have fallen into debt with unemployment opportunities all but diminished. Those returning from prison are celebrated in townships as heroes.
These are just some of the stories presented as we are taken through the city. It’s a revealing tapestry of everyday life weighed down in gloom, but captured through beautiful cinematography of oceans, landforms and raw scars from the wars.
Gaza shows us a breeding ground for depression and anger an entire population is being reared in, but throughout the film a resilience emerges with the experiences forming inspiration and keeping alight aspirations in rap, street theatre, literature, self expression and collective hope.