Gaza Strip, James Longley (2002)

Heroic cinéma vérité documentary filmed in several locations in the Gaza Strip in early 2001. No authoritative voice-overs or experts interviewed in their offices at universities, just on-the-scene footage and interviews with average Palestinian people, with a particular focus on children. Longley occasionally indulges in unnecessary special effects — slow motion, solarization, etc. — to increase the drama. As if that were necessary. The film’s most revealing moments are the accidental ones. A pickup truck being towed along the beach by a horse. A daughter’s careful preparation of tea as her mother tells the story of the family home being bulldozed.

Longley’s interviewees aren’t unpredictable. They condemn Israel’s depredations, vow to fight, weep with frustration. Some are more eloquent than others. For me, the film’s impact isn’t at all about what the people say, it’s about what we see. No words or stories, however affecting, could have the impact of the footage of the utter chaos of a Gaza emergency room during a rocket attack, or of a group of school kids standing around, looking only vaguely interested, while heavy machine gun fire rages just behind them.

Longley’s so concerned to appear nonpartisan that even in the director’s commentary he talks about alleged this and alleged that, even as you’re watching footage of kids who’ve been shot for throwing stones.

I don’t know what else to say. It’s massively sad, and makes extremely clear the monstrous disproportion between Palestinian and Israeli violence.

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