Gaza Strip, director James Longley’s first feature documentary, is a difficult film to sit through, not onlyÂ because it lacks a true narrative presentation, but because it showcases some of the most shocking and distressing images brought out of the Gaza Strip to date.
The film startsÂ off following a young newspaper boy named Mohammed through his daily routines: avoiding gunfire, selling newspapers, and witnessing his youngÂ friends suffering and dying in hospital beds, among other things. With numerous shots of children ducking in school yards to avoid bullets,Â Palestinians fleeing downÂ rubble-strewn streets, and screaming women, this is the kind of footage rarely, if ever,Â shown on nightly news.
Longley features many interviews in his film, all with Palestinians who want the Israelis to just “go away” and “leave them in peace”. The film is equal parts moving and disturbing as viewers witness a gasÂ attack incident, school children blown apart by a stray bomb they were playing with, and hundreds of Palestinians travelling along the beach because the roads are closed and blockaded by Israeli forces. Some of the most haunting shots leave the camera focussed on the faces of the young children. WhileÂ manyÂ duck at the sound of gunfire and explosions, othersÂ give offÂ half-amused smilesÂ and seem moreÂ interested by the sounds. The scary revelation is that they’ve heard these sounds so often it hardly frightens them any more.
While Gaza Strip doesÂ a superb job of presenting a disheartening view into the lives of many Palestinians, it does lack a frame of reference for the action.Â Though no one is expecting a history lesson to be included in a 74 minute documentary, it’s hard to base any hard opinions on such a presentation. The film is not overtly political, which is a relief with such a controversial topic, but by leaving out any information about the political atmosphere surrounding the conflict at the time of the filming, itÂ fails to provide a true reference point for the images being shown. That may be Longley’s objective with this film, though.
Rather than displaying a political opinion, Gaza Strip sets out only to show a slice of Palestinian life and that goal is well accomplished on all accounts. What audiences are presented with are the lives, viewpoints, and actionsÂ of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. What audiences are not presented with is a subjective narrator describing how these images should make one feel. Viewers will take away different things from this film based on their prior knowledge of the issues,Â disparate political convictions, and varying life experiences. What is undeniable, though, is that Gaza Strip is a powerful film and a bravely documented piece of modern world history. Anyone with even aÂ passing interest in the subject matter would benefit fromÂ viewing thisÂ film.
Zach’s Rating: B+
Documentary filmmaker’s rating: A
Nightly news watcher’s rating: B