With a title as simple as the political situation is complex, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s two-year project Gaza paints a panoramic view of the people who live in that densely populated Palestinian territory. This recent Sundance hit is by no means the first documentary to peel back the superficial, dehumanizing image of the Gaza Strip that is typically trotted out by mainstream news media (which tends to focus, almost fetishistically, on dead civilians and their equally nameless, grief-stricken families rather than the historical roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). But it nevertheless stands apart from other films about that topic by spreading its empathetic gaze across a vast population and allowing us to dwell in the small, quotidian moments of their largely quiet lives. Simple pleasures, such as catching a fish, performing a rap song, playing the cello, or surfing the choppy waters along the world’s most politically volatile coastal strip, are on ample view throughout the first half of Gaza, which illustrates, through shots of a beckoning Mediterranean, why the call of the sea might be so strong for those whose existence has been defined by borders and blockades. A very different (but no less sensitive) tone characterizes the film’s second half, which shows the flipside of life in a rubble-filled war zone, or what some inhabitants have described as an “open-air prison.” Indeed, like a virtual jail cell, the place where 2 million Palestinians call home has bred feelings of intensified desperation and hopelessness, especially in the aftermath of sieges that, beginning in 2014, kicked off a string of violent reprisals on the part of Hamas’ military wing. Riding a wave of buzz following its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Gaza is essential viewing — a much-needed reminder that, while no simple answer can be given to the question of how this decades-long conflict might be resolved, both sides must come together in the shared acknowledgment of the other’s humanity before any real change occurs.
Written by David Scott Diffrient
Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell
Ireland | Palestine
In Arabic with English subtitles