Jeannette Catsoulis, a reviewer for the NY Times, wrote “Brief Lives, Violently Extinguished” on a documentary film about the terrible human toll of Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009. This is most of her short article, published Sept. 19:
A brutally uncompromising blast of outrage, Vibeke Lokkeberg’s “Tears of Gaza” is less a documentary than a collage of suffering. Dropping us smack in the middle of the Israeli attacks on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the film tramples politics beneath the raw weight of civilian testimony. Woven together, these monologues of bereavement and confusion, illustrated with images so terrible they repel rational explanation, form a tapestry of human misery that’s impossible to shake off.
…. Postcarnage interviews allow the stunned reactions of three surviving children to shape a quiet meditation on lives irretrievably altered.
Unwaveringly committed to a method that spits on context, “Tears of Gaza” forces us to ask a single, electric question: Amid this much horror, does context even matter?
My own review at The Forward’s Arty Semite blog does not dispute the brutal facts of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”; I am repelled by the human cost of this military action and feel nothing but compassion for the three Palestinian children depicted in the film. Still, I disagree entirely with the contempt for context displayed by the filmmaker and endorsed by the NY Times reviewer.
The title of this particular blog post is what I had intended but was not chosen for my Forward article; there is a paragraph where I speculate on what a Martian might think if dropped into a devastated German or Japanese city after World War II, without any notion of German and Japanese atrocities. For what I assume to be stylistic reasons, the following was omitted by the editor:
Yahya, one of three children featured
Israel was provoked by thousands of rockets and other assaults on its territory. Yetthis searing work of propaganda conveys something we need to be reminded of: the paramount need to resolve conflicts non-violently, or at least with a carefully restrained use of force that attempts to pinpoint sources of attack.
Without eliminating the attacks on Israeli towns (it has reduced them to a degree), the widespread destruction makes it harder for Gaza Palestinians to reconcile themselves to living at peace with Israel.
Also omitted was my discovery from the film that the Arabic word for blood is the same as in Hebrew: dom.