April 22, 2018

Film: Tears of Gaza, Life During Wartime


Compared to the real thing, war films are laughable, but “Tears of Gaza” is one of the most compelling documentaries of the year.

Film: <i>Tears of Gaza</i>, Life During Wartime

Four years after the conflict at Gaza, two years since its initial release in Europe and a tour on America’s film festival circuit, the footage is still gripping.

Zibeke Lokkeberg’s Tears of Gaza eschews any commentary about Israel or Palestine and focuses purely on the horrors of war.

The film’s narrative follows three Palestinan children, Amira, Razmia and Yahya, who learn to survive and cope with living in a war-torn country.

Lokkeberg offers great commentary about the vicious cycle that is war through her subjects. Amira, the oldest of the three, has vowed to become a lawyer in order to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes. Similarly, Yahya wants to be a doctor if only to heal the people that Israel has harmed.

While Razmia is right in decreeing that “life is hard,” it would’ve been nice if they had their pre-war ambitions intact. Apparently, war does that even at 12 years of age.

Made partly in response to Lokkeberg’s frustration with the U.S. invasion of Iraq being reported from a distance, the great irony of Tears of Gaza is that it’s filmed from a distance, sort of. Unable to get clearance from the Israeli and Egyptian governments to enter Gaza, a production company that works for Reuters was hired to work on the film.

From an artistic standpoint, the film enters a gray, chicken-vs.-egg area with the footage. Is it completely Lokkeberg’s vision or the person shooting it?

To be honest it really doesn’t matter because the material is, sadly, so compelling

Not since the Vietnam newsreels has footage been so moving and visceral. The audience is dropped right in the middle of the Gaza conflict as buildings collapse, cars explode and innocents are shot point blank.

War films are laughable when compared to the real thing. Any platitudes concerning war or violence seem to pale in comparison to an actual street flowing red with blood. The overall feeling of helplessness while mayhem and confusion run amok is where the film gets its horror. Not haunting like Freddy or Jason, but you leave the film with a palpable dread.

After a while, the violence becomes too numbing and therein lies the problem. While Lokkeberg offers no commentary on Israel or Palestine, she also provides no overlying theme or message going forward. While it’s certainly not violence for the sake of violence, it leaves the film slightly hollow.

Not a feel-good movie in the slightest, but we need films like Tears of Gaza that, at the least, provide food for thought.