Aisheen: Still Alive in Gaza @ Montreal International Documentary Film Festival

In February 2009, just one month after Israel ended its military offensive, director Nicolas Wadimoff was able to bring his camera into Gaza, the one-time rich city that is now dubbed the biggest prison in the world, for 14 days. It is a major accomplishment to be able to film at all never mind 14 days in Gaza. He was able to capture poignant images of the people there who living in wait. They are waiting for a time where things are better for Palestinians. This is not inherently a political film rather it is a film about the people.

Despite the fact that 'officially' the Israeli offensive has stopped planes still fly overhead daily and bombings do happen. Men, women and children go through the ruined buildings and houses trying to find stuff that this still usable. This is how they survive on a day to day basis.

The stories show a proud people who have been beaten down by the circumstances around them. The film begins with a young boy asking a man working at a bombed out amusement park "Where is the ghost town?" Asking the boy to follow him the man then shows him the remains of what was like a haunted house within the amusement park. He talks at different points throughout the film about how he believes that one day he will get his business back up and running. Very surreal. It is like an allusion to the fact that the entire city of Gaza due to the bombings has been turned into a ghost town. From there we just move on to images of what can only be described as a carcass of a city. Gaza is now a collection of tents and bombed out buildings. Eerie to look at. An area that does not seem livable, yet many still reside there.

Other moving scenes include a family cleaning up the olive orchard that they have owned for many years. The trees, some of them being 650 years old and from Roman times, are all destroyed. Their livelihood is gone. Another scene of a woman talking to a young boy, while trying to clean the wounds on his legs, about how he is ready to be a martyr himself was hard to watch.

Wadimoff tends to focus his camera on the youngest members of Gaza to show us how they are handling it all. The young are truly the innocent victims of the constant bombardment and having to live life constantly on the brink. Though children and the young are often the focus he does show a wide variety of age groups in the documentary.

While watching this documentary I often found myself questioning how people managed to survive under these conditions. Some are in total despair thinking that things will never get better and they just have to cope, while others are still stoic and have some fight left in them.

Director Nicolas Wadimoff handles things sensitively and that allows the viewer to get more a true picture of what the people of Gaza are having to deal with on a day-to-day basis. There is no narration and he does not himself interpret what is going on. The images and people speak for themselves. What was most difficult for me was that at the end of it all I did not get the feeling that the situation in Gaza was going to change anytime soon.

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