Sundance Review: ‘Gaza’ Is an Essential Documentary about the People Forsaken by the World

2019 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Documentaries can be a powerful vehicle for change, providing the voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. “Gaza” is one such documentary.

For director, Andrew McConnell, this project began as a feature about the surfing community in the 25 mile stretch of seaside known as the Gaza strip. But while the photojournalist was there, getting to know the surfers and shooting hours of footage, the 2014 war broke out. His focus shifted, and the film turned into the story of the people that have been turned into political pawns both by Hamas, which controls the region, and Israel, who wants to take it over.

“Gaza” is a portrait of people from different walks of life. Some are young, some are old. There are men and women, merchants and unemployed. Each story is valuable and insightful. Together, they paint a picture of life in Gaza, and how it has devolved over the years. Where the people were hopeful that the future could be better, they eventually have come to realize that they are forsaken by the world.

The carefully selected stories are each so different from the others. A young woman from a wealthier family discusses her hope for seeking education and a career. An old man reflects on how things have changed for the worse over his many decades. Some live in nice apartments, others live in refugee camps. Every life is important, every dream is full of hope. And yet, that hope is rapidly fading.

What is happening in this tiny corner of the world is an unnecessary tragedy. The UN says that the Gaza strip could be completely uninhabitable by 2020. Just one year from now, the water table will be completely polluted, the safe housing will be destroyed, and the entire economy will have collapsed.

McConnell and his co-director Garry Keane show the realities without blaming one side over the other. This is a documentary that simply shows you the truth and gives the audience faces and names. These are real people being hurt and killed. They can’t be ignored. And by putting these faces out there, they hope to implore the world to care. Every documentary has an agenda, and theirs is to convince the world to save the people of Gaza.

In addition to co-directing, McConnell served as cinematographer. His images are beautiful and devastating. His footage of the 2014 war and the 2018 protests is terrifying and powerful. It is assembled by editor Mick Mahon in a way that gives power to those images. Mahon helps bring in the sense of urgency necessary to make their point.

“Gaza” is haunting in all the ways a film of this kind should be. This is a call to action. It isn’t enough to watch the film. It will make you want to do something to help. Much like “Cries from Syria” two years ago, “Gaza” should be viewed far and wide. It needs to be seen by the biggest audience possible. The world needs to know the truth of what decades of ignorance have done.

“Gaza” does not have a release date, but is currently distributed by FilmOption International.

GRADE: (★★★★)

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