Director: Garry Keane & Andrew McConnell
Released: 9 August
At one point in Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s documentary, a lifeguard reflects on the city he has known his entire life, “Everyone knows Gaza is in complete darkness… Like an open prison.”
The Gaza Strip has been the victim of a blockade between Israel and Egypt for over ten years now. Its population is trapped, two million people restricted to a 25 by seven-mile area that’s ravaged by unemployment and Israeli air raids. Regardless of your politics, it’s undeniable that Palestinians live under dehumanising conditions.
That’s something that Keane and McConnell don’t shy away from. McConnell’s incredible cinematography frames his subjects against the half demolished buildings that many consider home. In one stunning shot, a group of men pray under a tower that has toppled into the front of an apartment block. McConnell’s eye for a telling panoramic is undisputed.
But that’s only half the story. Gaza certainly doesn’t romanticise conditions on the strip, but it also strives to put a human face on an area that is often considered a mere warzone. We meet young boys living in refugee camps, taxi drivers, upper-middle class teenagers, paramedics, a rapper. We travel through busy markets, late night parties and busy fishing ports. We learn about the hopes and fears of the Gazan people, take a deep dive into their culture, and see that this city has so much to offer if it is afforded its basic human rights.
Unfortunately, Keane and McConnell overstretch themselves with the vignette structure. Gaza is a sprawling doc that struggles to develop its subjects in its relatively brief 92-minute runtime; its attempts to cover everything from Israeli fishing policies to the hijab make Gaza feel like a jack of all trades. Yet despite this, Keane and McConnell are to be commended for making a film of such compassion and surprising warmth.
Words: Jack O’Higgins
Image Credit: Still from Gaza