Documentary film by James Longely
(DVD, Director: James Longely, 2002, 74 minutes, Arabic with English subtitles, $29.99 from www.arabfilm.com)
Gaza Strip will sharply awaken the conscience of anybody who is unaware of the harsh realities of life in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. For those who do possess a deeper understanding of the conflict, this film offers a raw emotional edge seldom captured by the bulletins of television broadcasts.
James Longley travelled to Gaza in January 2001 and shot over seventy hours of material during a four-month visit. The film follows the events of ordinary Palestinians in their struggle to survive in the face of Israeli occupation of their homeland. The passive rhythm of the film, which covers the early period of Ariel Sharon's premiership, unlocks a host of facts often obscured by mainstream media's interpretation of the conflict.
If you view with Director's Commentary (one of the many special features of this DVD) you learn, for example, that the Gaza Strip is essentially an open-air prison for Palestinian refugees, guarded on all sides by the Israeli military forces. Just 28 miles long and 4 miles wide, it is home for over 1,200,000 Palestinians, making the Gaza Strip one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.
The principal character of the film is Mohammed Hajezi, a thirteen-year-old Palestinian boy. Mohammed's story is one of sadness and strength; his best friend was shot and killed by Israeli troops; his father is unable to work following his arrest and imprisonment by Israeli authorities (for throwing stones at Israeli tanks when he was a child) which has forced the boy to work, delivering newspapers, in order to earn his family much needed income. To the horror of his parents, Mohammed is himself now one of a new generation of Palestinian boys who risk their lives hurling stones over barbed wire fences at Israeli tanks, in what is nothing more than a symbolic gesture of resistance. Mohammed's articulate notion of death crystallises a sense of lost innocence now endemic amongst Palestinian children.
This film charts the views of ordinary Palestinian people who frequently vent anger at the manifold consequences of military occupation.Elderly men and women tell stories of how their family homes and olive groves have been levelled by Israeli bulldozers. In one scene, shot at 'Beach Camp' (a refugee camp on a beach near the Gaza City), efforts to restrict free movement of Palestinians is revealed as hordes of Palestinians are forced to travel the length of the beach, with their horses and cars, to avoid road blocks imposed by the Israeli military.
Longley's film also makes clear that many Palestinians, despite determined resistance to the occupation, crave peace and stability - a paradox that is proving difficult to solve.