dimanche 26 mars 2017

Israeli bombs from the view of a Gaza ambulance crew

Les bombes sionistes du point de vue d'une équipe d'ambulanciers de Gaza

Abu Marzouk in Mohamed Jabaly’s Ambulance.

Gruff and skeptical, Abu Marzouq clearly does not want to be filmed. The ambulance driver is the reluctant protagonist of the first feature-length documentary by Gaza-based filmmaker Mohamed Jabaly.

Ambulance follows a crew of paramedics led by Abu Marzouq during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza. The documentary, featured in the BBC Arabic Film Festival 2017 currently underway in London, is at once highly reflective and rough, unadulterated.

Drawn from dozens of hours of footage recorded at innumerable sites of catastrophe, Ambulance unfolds in the same chronology as the war. This is no narrative that would be recognizable in a nightly newscast. Instead of answering circular and often problematic questions of who started what, Jabaly answers unasked questions, and shows the physical, psychological and social impacts of war.

Ambulance begins with a list of statistics: 51 days, 18,000 homes destroyed, 500,000 people displaced.

In Jabaly’s film these figures are given meaningful redefinitions. No longer an abstract number, “destroyed homes” become the bodies pulled out from beneath collapsed cement, and the anguished faces of family members as they learn the news that loved ones have been crushed.
“They’re all gone”

For Gaza’s emergency workers, the violence is personal. In one poignant scene, in the thick of bombardment, one of the young paramedics gets a call. Following protocol, he asks: how many in the house, can they move, who is missing. He hangs up and reports: “My uncle’s house was destroyed with 12 people inside.”

Sitting next to the camera, he says a prayer and leans back into the ambulance seat. His face melts and grief takes over: “They’re all gone.”

As ambulance crews rush to the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, viewers see displacement not as a fact, but as a process. The area was under intense shelling as its residents emerged from their homes into the streets to flee certain death, carrying mattresses, plastic bags, children. Here, the ambulance crew provided reassurance, transporting those too frail or distraught to make the journey to the city center.

The desire to bring better understanding to what happened in Gaza is what prompted Jabaly to make the film in the first place.

Having previously filmed at the government-run hospital in Gaza City, Jabaly was called in by a colleague on the first day of the attack. He recorded in the emergency room as the dead and injured poured through the doors.

By the end of the day he had permission from the hospital director to ride with one of the ambulances for the duration of what would be seven weeks of devastating bombardment.

What emerges from Jabaly’s film most clearly is the heroic aid provided by the paramedics. The crew and their driver give shelter to fleeing families, emotional support to terrified kids, first aid to the wounded, and bodies to lean on for relatives struck down with grief.

Abu Marzouq, having worked through the major Israeli offensives in 2008 and 2012, is a silent leader who supports his crew and leads them deftly through a disintegrating landscape. As he slowly warms to the glass eye of Jabaly’s camera, he instructs the filmmaker where to lo..

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