Review: Ordinary lives captured in powerful documentary Gaza

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Karma Khaial, 15, plays the cello in front of the ruins of the former Al Waha resort in northern Gaza

GAZA documentary – REVIEW – Una Murphy

One of the characters is the sea, said film-maker Andrew McConnell at the preview screening of the documentary film Gaza which goes on general release from today.

There are boys surfing on the waves, fishermen with their nets and on the horizon an Israeli war ship.

Ahmed Abu Alqoraan, 15, iwith his brothers on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip. Ahmed’s life revolves around the sea and he dreams of one day being the captain of a large fishing boat

The underwater scenes of the boys diving into the depth with the exhilaration of youth are juxtaposed with scenes of teenagers with a giant catapult slinging stones at concrete fortifications. A rite of passage in a war zone.

For Andrew it was the boys at the water’s edge who were the gateway to the documentary he started filming in 2014. He wanted to tell their stories and their families, filming over several years, meeting new people such as a girl learning to play the cello, her mother, a theatre director and a taxi driver.

He wanted to get away from the one-dimensional quality of the news footage of conflict that we usually see of Gaza, he told playwright Jo Egan, artistic director and a founding member of Macha Productions, during a question and answer session with the audience after the screening in Belfast.

This documentary by Andrew McConnell and Garry Keane succeeds in the film-makers’ aim of letting us look into the lives of the young men dancing and the young women trying out Bedouin inspired dresses.

Surfers enter the Mediterranean Sea in front of Gaza City. During the summer months, the beaches around Gaza City attract large crowds, with the coast being the only real recreational space available in Gaza

But one is left with the sense of the claustrophobia they must experience; nearly two million people living on a small strip of land and even the open sea is another impenetrable border.

The film opens today in Omniplex Kennedy Centre, Belfast, Omniplex Derry, QFT Belfast and Irish Film Institute, Dublin.

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