- Film & TV
- 22 Aug 19
Irish directors paint a three dimensional portrait of life for the people in Gaza.
Irish duo Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell met to discuss making a film about Gaza in 2014; a year in which 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians were killed as a result of the Middle Eastern conflict. They returned to Gaza in 2018, amidst the devastating Great March of Return Protests. Their resulting film, shot over four years, aims to paint a portrait of Gaza that moves beyond the one-dimensional representation often presented to us, instead capturing the essence of everyday life there.
McConnell’s cinematography is stunning, capturing the bustling movement of Gaza streets, the tranquillity of its beaches, and life carrying on against a backdrop of ruined buildings. The characters in this life include Ahmed, who dreams of becoming a fisherman; Karma, a philosophical young cellist; Abu Sitta, a designer who organised Gaza’s first ever fashion show; and taxi driver Ahmed, who takes us on a tour of Gaza, allowing us to see life on the Strip.
The film isn’t structured chronologically, but emotively. The first act introduces us to these characters and allows them to share their hopes and dreams, the second act portrays the obstacles facing them: Unemployment, power-cuts, clean water shortages, rigid limits on movement, mass inescapable debt. The interviews, along with McConnell’s footage of a destitute city and monitored coast, create a sense of imprisonment; it’s not that these people are struggling, it’s that they can’t envision a way out. One person describes Gaza as “the world’s largest open-air prison.”
The third act shows the bombs, the violence, the buildings and people riddled with bullet holes. By the time it happens, it feels both horrifying and inevitable. This violence is woven into the daily fabric of the Gazan people’s lives. But what’s most heartbreaking is the interviewees’ feeling of having been abandoned by an apathetic world that has decided their problems are unsolvable. “The only thing they give us is sympathy,” says Karma. “They see what they want to see. They should look deeper.”
Keane and McConnell have done that. Their documentary is personal, compassionate and beautifully shot; their treatment of the people of Gaza empathetic and humane. Can the world say the same?