★★★★ - STUFF
- An unforgettable documentary that swings from the sombre to the rapturous -
Gaza is a 40 km long and 12 km wide strip of land. It is bordered on two sides by Israel and on one side by Egypt. But its longest border is with the Mediterranean Sea.
Gaza is officially a part of Palestine, but it is cut off from the West Bank by Israeli land. Since 2007, Gaza has been under the control of Hamas, who were elected to power in 2006.
Since that time, the people of Gaza have lived under an economic blockade imposed by Israel and the United States. Many commentators describe Gaza as an open-air prison. It is also the third most-densely populated self-governing region in the world. Over two million Palestinians live in Gaza, in conditions that run the gamut from squalid to heartbreakingly awful.
Irish film-makers Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell spent four years, from 2014 to 2018, either living in, or travelling to, Gaza. And they have come back with a unique and wholly unexpected documentary.
Gaza, somehow, eschews the anger, the politics and the chaos of life in a war zone, and instead focuses on the sheer indomitability and resilience of the human spirit.
Gaza opens on a fine and carefully chosen shot of five grinning and laughing boys, crammed together on a surfboard, jostling, falling, playing. It’s an image that sets the tone for the entire film.
Again and again, Keane and McConnell return to the kids, playing, helping, completely apart from the adults’ politics, even as they live in a place that politics and posturing has created. I've never seen a film that so accurately and often captures that exact moment in a child's life when the laughter and smiles suddenly wither and harden into an adult's anger and fear.
If the film occasionally wears its desire to move you just a little too brazenly, that's a pretty forgivable flaw when the subject matter is as urgent and heartbreaking as this. Gaza swings from the sombre to the rapturous. You won't forget that you have seen it.
- Graeme Tuckett, Stuff.co.nz
Gaza is now playing at Light House Cinema!
(In Arabic and English with English subtitles)