Tuesday, November 20, 2018

‘Gas the Arabs’: the award-winning documentary narrating the Palestinian reality


By Alicia Ramos Perez - June 11, 2018
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Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Features]
Tags: [culture] [film]

When the world decides to look away, after the media and journalists leave, Palestine still remains under occupation. 'Gas the Arabs’ is a documentary that narrates a journey to Palestine, guided by its people and their land. The Palestinians become the narrators and protagonists. They provide an intimate and sincere insight of the Palestinian struggle and fight.
 
“We are trying to give voice to the people that are submerged in this situation of conflict. More than just merely informative, we wanted to film their human perspectives. Their point of view living under occupation, their families and their tragedies,” Gas the Arabs Director Julio Pérez del Campo told Palestine Monitor.
 
The documentary focuses on the continuity of life under occupation and blockade. The modality of perpetual injustice suffered by Palestinians, after the habitual peaks of violence that attract international media attention.
 
A journey through the memories and stories of West Bank and Gaza, Spanish Directors Julio Pérez del Campo and Carlos Bover Martínez tried to bring Palestine’s social reality into not only Spain, but the whole world.
 
“After the last Israeli aggression on the Gaza strip, the reality of the conflict disappeared from the media outlets. This documentary aims to portray Palestinian life after the world´s cameras have shifted their gaze elsewhere and Palestinians need to pick up the scraps to continue life,” Pérez del Campo said.
 
Through the eyes of different Palestinian characters, the film paints a Palestinian reality in which infringements on dignity and human rights are continuous and normalised.
 
A completely unscripted documentary, the directors wanted to make sure that it was the Palestinian voices that shaped the progress of the documentary. The protagonist could tell their experiences about the aggressions they had received from Israel. Pérez del Campo also explained that everything they filmed was precisely what they found, without searching for the most tragic stories.
 
The title of the documentary was inspired by one of the noticeable graffities in a locked down Palestinian shop in Hebron. On the door, a spray paint visibly read: 'Gas the Arabs’.
 
In the first opening scene, the documentary provides the spectator a brutal contrast between the lives of the Israelis and the Palestinians. Just before, a disclaimer announced the images could harm the viewers sensibility.
 
The viewer is first taken to Hebron, to hear the testimony of a family having to co-exist and survive next to one of the West Bank’s largest illegal settlements.
 
The second stop is in Nablus, where the testimony of two Palestinians in hospital after experiencing the brutal violence of the settlers is heard. They explain how it is to live with 4000 military soldiers 'protecting’ 400 settlers.
 
The last stop is on the beach in the Gaza strip where Palestinian fisherman explain how it is to work in a restricted area of 6 Nautical miles.
 
International awareness
 
Pérez del Campo explained creating awareness was the main aim of Gas the Arabs. “I guess we’ve put our small grain of sand. We wanted to give voice to the Palestinians in the international community, present the reality people are living in Gaza and the West Bank. We did not want our audience to be only leftists and activists that sympathise with Palestine… we wanted to break the glass wall.”
 
This documentary had its world premiere on April 20 at the Atlántida Film Fest in Mallorca.
 
So far, the documentary has been present in several international festivals. It has received the award of Best Short Documentary in the International Festival of short films of Torrelavega. It has also won best short movie in Solidarity Film Festival of Guadalajara FESCIGU.
 
Censured by the Israeli Government
 
When talking with Pérez del Campo, he mentioned all the festivals where they were nominated, further saying there were “attempts of the Israeli government to censor our documentary in several events.”
 
When asked as to why some festivals refused to screen the documentary, Pérez del Campo did not want to provide further information. “It would put the people who informed me at risk,” he explained, “it would put at danger the informant’s jobs security.”
 
Pérez del Campo also stated in an interview carried out to eldiario.es that “one of the protagonists of the documentary was assassinated by the IDF six months after filming. The rest of the people interviewed for the documentary had also suffered severe consequences after the filming. This is what they have to stand in face of the passivity of the international community.” He also added that he fears about the future of the people he interviewed in the documentary, people with whom they created close relationships.
 
This is not the first time Israel is accused of lobbying against Palestinian-related movies in film festivals. In May 2016, the Electronic Intifada revealed several Israeli lobby groups in France were applying pressure to block the screening of a Palestinian documentary. Even though, 'Munich: A Palestinian Story’ by Nasri Hajjaj was eventually screened in the Cannes Film Festival.
 
'Foxtrot’, an acclaimed drama which depicts the Israeli Army covering up the death of a Palestinian teenager, had also suffered from Israel’s boycott. The embassy officials of Israel did not attend the opening event in Paris.
 
According to the Palestine Legal Organisation, the grounds of boycotting anything related to the Israeli occupation are based on false and inflammatory accusations of antisemitism and support for terrorism. Palestinian freedom of speech is under threat as Israel advocacy groups monitor speech and activities. Then, the Palestinian right advocates are accused by Israel of antisemitism based solely on their criticism towards Israeli policy.
 
 

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