All photos by Andrew McConnell from "Gaza"
Delving behind the bleak headlines to portray "a people plagued by conflict, but not defined by it," two Irish filmmakers have just released "Gaza," a documentary that offers "a brief immersion in the heart of Gaza." The directors, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, sought to portray the complex daily reality of two million people by chronicling the lives of several ordinary Palestinians over a five-year period as they struggle to find normalcy and even joy - that, despite inhabiting a rubble-strewn open-air prison with rampant poverty, over 50% unemployment, limited electricity, undrinkable water, a battered infrastructure and warnings their home could soon be virtually unlivable. Their "tender portrait of a beleaguered humanity" focuses on five main characters - including a teacher, student, barber, rapper, and taxi driver who sometimes shares their dreams, though thanks to the siege he can't take them anywhere.
Often, they long for the sea - commonly viewed as "the only place to exhale in Gaza" - which is now polluted and closed to them by Israel's blocking of funds for sewage treatment. Says 19-year-old student and cellist Karma, “Whenever I stand and breathe the air of the sea, I can breathe freedom...But at the same time, the sea is a reminder of our miserable reality...There is an invisible border. It’s torture.” For filmmakers who faced funding challenges, as well as harassment from both Israeli soldiers and Hamas security forces, thus does the political become personal. In the film, which premiered at Sundance and was released this month, they take pains to avoid polemics and stress the humanity of their protagonists. Still, they say their "absolute goal" was to highlight the tragedy of Gaza, where two million "fragile but resilient" people are being collectively punished, their lives scarred and bound by the Occupation. "The siege," they write, "brought on by history, Israel, Hamas and the abandonment of Gaza by the international community, is the villain of our story."
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