Gaza-strophe — The Day After

Gaza-strophe — The Day After

Gaza-strophe – The Day After

Samir Abdallah and Khéridine Mabrouk, directors
France / Palestine
100 minutes

Gaza’s Winter

shorts by 12 international directors
Najwa Najjar, producer
50 minutess

(screened at the Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, July 29, 2010)

Samir Abdallah (left) and Khéridine Mabrouk, directors of “Gaza-strophe — The Day After”

“The world has become very dark. There are no good people,” a young Gaza mother says straight into the unflinching eye of the camera here. And you’d be hard pressed to disagree with her if you watch the news with its daily parade of death and destruction. But turning it off isn’t an option for this Gazaoui whose family has been murdered by Israel in its December 2008 – January 2009 war, Operation Cast Lead. “May God grant us patience,” a man says to a sorrowing father, and the viewer certainly needs patience, plus fortitude to face the uncomfortable and definitely inconvenient truths this picture shows.

Ostensibly a defense against Hamas rockets fired on Israel – one observer of its behavior remarked that Israel would claim it was defending itself even if it was on the moon – Operation Cast Lead resulted in at least 1,417 deaths, many of them very young children, women, and the elderly – some men in their 80s shot execution-style — plus many thousands wounded, maimed for life, as well as equally defenseless animals, plus the mass obliteration of hospitals, UN schools, mosques, water and power plants, land farmed by generations of the same family, even cemeteries, the dead prematurely rising from their graves, all done with “state of the art” weapons including white phosphorus, which burns the victim’s body from inside, thereby necessitating amputations, all supplied by you guessed it – the United States and the EU.

Abdallah and Mabrouk, accompanied by their friends from the Palestinian Human Rights Centre — in the stunning silence after the war – merely present their case. And their images, especially the faces of the besieged – and let’s not forget that Gaza has been besieged since the 1948 war that established the “only democracy in the Middle East” – speak volumes.

An old woman in a black abaya spared death, but with horrors to tell. A handsome young father and his young son, stroking his head as he speaks and shows a photo of his murdered daughter, his son’s sister. Children drawing the horrors they’ve seen – a plane, a tank, a missile killing a parent or parents in a nanosecond. A sweet faced white donkey, one leg maimed, barely able to stand. A cat who refuses to leave its loving protector, an old woman, for God knows what. A live-wire man, deeply eloquent and funny – complete with white prayer cap  – whose strawberry farms have been destroyed. And what about the carnations, the roses promised – for Valentine’s Day?  

Gifted Palestinian writer-director Najwa Najjar, of “Pomegranates and Myrrh” fame,who asked for and collected the international films comprising “Gaza’s Winter,” has compiled a far less successful effort, alas, and some were too short to make much of an impact. “The curtain descends / Everything ends too soon,” as Kurt Weill’s lyricist, Ogden Nash, laments. It was hard to find much of distinction here – good intentions do not necessarily good art make – the primary exceptions being the Spanish segment showing a fervent protest against Israel’s war on Gaza, “Andalucia con Palestina” along with starkly staged excerpts from Garcia Lorca’s play “Bodas de Sangre” (Blood Wedding), and Omar Robert Hamilton’s “When I Stretch Forth My Hand” with the powerful repetitive verse of Suheir Hammad, star of Annemarie Jacir’s film “Salt of This Sea.”  

It’s heaven to have the late great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) – bits of his 1974 poem “Silence for Gaza” begin “Gaza-strophe” – plus his sonorous baritonal readings of salient sections of his stark but loving 2002 “A State of Siege,” which he wrote when Ariel Sharon’s “most moral army in the world” was attacking Ramallah where he lived –

” You, standing in the doorsteps, enter
   and drink Arabic coffee with us
  (you might sense you’re human like us)
  you standing at the doorsteps of houses,
  get out of our mornings,
  we need reassurance that we
  are human like you! ”

– which bookend “Gaza-strophe.”

“Because time in Gaza is not a neutral element”
                                        –“Silence for Gaza”

© 2010 Michael McDonagh