Tears of Gaza director: “How could one not want to show the world what is happening?”
By Joanne Laurier
28 September 2010
Originally reported on the World Socialist Web Site
The Israeli military’s murderous assault in December 2008-January 2009 on the Palestinian population of Gaza is the subject of a powerful documentary by Norwegian director Vibeke Løkkeberg. The searing footage of a bombardment that lasted 22 days shook audiences at the festival. It is not easy to watch. Why should it be?
Løkkeberg and producer-husband Terje Kristiansen explained to us in a conversation that Tears of Gaza was assembled primarily out of frontline footage taken by numerous Palestinians.
During the siege, the international media were prevented from entering the Gaza Strip. Løkkeberg and Kristiansen organized the film, including the gathering of video material, from outside the war zone, in Israel and Egypt. The viewer watches as bombs drop on buildings and people run screaming from the smoking wreckage, at times carrying out wounded, dismembered or dead children.
More than 1,400 people, the majority of them civilians, were killed in the Israeli assault, of whom 400 were women and children. Thousands more were wounded. This compares to the death of 13 Israelis, including soldiers who died as the result of “friendly” fire. Some 20,000 houses, factories and other structures in Gaza were destroyed.
Tears of Gaza’s images uncover the gruesome reality behind these figures. The US government and media, and the Western powers generally, sat by and either encouraged the savagery, or did nothing to stop it. All of the individuals and institutions involved are complicit in war crimes.
Gaza is a small slice of land between the desert and the Mediterranean Sea where a million-and-a-half people are imprisoned. The WSWS commented at the time of the bombing that, “the plight of Gaza resembles nothing so much as the tragic fate of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland.”
With an infrastructure already badly damaged from years of Israeli embargos and targeting of Gaza’s water and electricity networks, the raw footage captures fires being fought without sufficient water or equipment, and an aftermath of body-filled rubble. One cameraman points to three small children who were clearly executed.
A father shows the scarred flesh, from face to foot, of his young daughter. He wonders about her future and his ability to protect her. “Even if they give us the world, we will not forget,” says one young boy.
A lack of ambulances results in many of the wounded being carried in the arms of bystanders to hospitals, which function with the most rudimentary resources. The harried but experienced staff deal as best they can with the victims—many of them children—of phosphorous bombs and Dense Inert Metal Explosives (Dime), a device that explodes from the ground upwards leaving massive injuries to the lower part of the abdomen and body. Then there are the bodies too charred to identify and the grieving families too traumatized to talk.
Intercut in the footage are the stories of three young people—Yahya, Rasmia and Amira—who provide a shape and structure to a film that does not offer much in the way of political and historical context. The filmmakers interview the three, individually, in the period after the ceasefire. They have lost family members, and are without places to live, food, water and electricity. Rasmia tells the camera that she is always thirsty. The children describe how their schools were destroyed, even those run by the United Nations, and their books burned.
At the film’s Question and Answer session in Toronto, director Løkkeberg said she was motivated to make the courageous Tears of Gaza when she first saw the faces of children who had lived through the war on a television program.