Gaza Ghetto - Portrait of a Palestinian family 1948 - 1984
SCREEN: 'GAZA GHETTO'
By JANET MASLIN
Published: May 29, 1985
''GAZA GHETTO'' begins with footage of a young Palestinian girl declaring that ''the most important thing for me is to live on my land.'' It ends only 82 minutes later with a replay of the same scene. The film makers doubtless mean to underscore their sincerity and that of their subjects, members of a family that has lived for three generations in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. But the effect is sentimental and contrived, as is all too much of this disorganized, falsely low-keyed documentary.
Certainly the film makers, PeA Holmquist, Joan Mandell and Pierre Bjorklund, make no pretense of approaching their subject objectively: while shooting a scene in which they persistently grill a group of Israeli soldiers, one of the directors acknowledges that he thinks the only solution to Israeli-Palestinian problems in Gaza is for Israel to give up its claim to occupied land.
But in attempting to generate sympathy for Palestinian refugees, the film makers overstate their case to the point of counterproductivity. The fact that no one in ''Gaza Ghetto,'' which opens today at the Film Forum I, is seen expressing anger in discussing this painful and complex dilemma merely underscores the limitations of the film's credibility. The Israeli censors who have banned ''Gaza Ghetto'' greatly overestimate its power.
The Abu el-Adel family, presented as peaceful, helpless and victimized, is seen visiting the area where its forebears lived and being shooed away by members of the Israeli kibbutz that now occupies the spot. The mother is seen telling her 13-year-old daughter that her grandmother bled to death when an Israeli-imposed curfew made it impossible for her to reach a hospital. Though the girl must surely have heard this before, she affects a wide-eyed, plaintive expression. She has much the same look in another scene, in which she asks her mother why there is little Palestinian history in her curriculum at school. Surely this, too, has been discussed before in this household.
Another mother lines up her children in front of the camera to bewail the death of her 8-year-old, who she alleges was shot by Israeli soldiers who fired into a crowd. She wants her other three sons, still young children, to join the P.L.O. some day and avenge the death of their brother. ''Ashraf, are you going to avenge Siheil?'' she asks the oldest boy. Ashraf won't answer. ''Say yes,'' she prompts. ''Tell mother.'' As the boy remains silent and the mother's tirade grows ever more shrill, the emotional impact of the woman's very real grief is blunted by the staged quality of the proceedings.
The film's only genuinely provocative moments are those that sharply acknowledge the irreconcilability of Israeli and Palestinian positions: for instance, conflicting statements from the Israeli who says that kibbutzes have been built only on vacant land and from the elderly Palestinian who says his farm was razed by order of Israeli authorities and is now a kibbutz. Snippets of interviews with Ariel Sharon and General Ben Eliezar, expressing hard-line policies while advocating peaceful coexistence, also underscore the frustration. But the juxtaposition of Mr. Sharon's comfortable home with scenes of the Palestinian refugees' crowded settlements, or shots of a bulldozer accompanying statistics on the razing of Palestinian homes, are the cheap shots on which ''Gaza Ghetto'' too easily relies.
Family Portrait GAZA GHETTO, written, produced and directed by PeA Holmquist, Joan Mandell and Pierre Bjorklund; in Arabic, Hebrew and English with English subtitles; photography, PeA Holmquist and Yoram Millo. At Film Forum, 57 Watts Street.
Running time: 82 minutes. This film has no rating.
Grandfather Abu el-Adel
His daughter Itidhal
Itidhal's husband Mustafa
Their eldest daughter Ra'ida