Arts and Culture 10 May 2011
Back in 2002, James Longley’s brilliant and then groundbreaking documentary Gaza Strip was screened to overflow crowds at the first Chicago Palestine Film Festival. I recall that the festival planners even added a second, unscheduled screening and still dozens of people had to be turned away at the door. Now, Longley has released the entire 72-minute film to watch for free online.
Reflecting on the film a decade after he shot it, Longley writes:
In early 2001 I spent three months in Gaza filming material for this documentary, GAZA STRIP, working with local fixer and translator, Mohammed Mohanna. The second Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation had begun in September, 2000, and there had already been large numbers of deaths in Gaza when I started this project.
Though the period this documentary covers includes the election of Ariel Sharon as Israeli Prime Minister and large incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces into Gaza, in retrospect the time depicted here is one of relative quiet. More recent Israeli attacks against Gaza have been far more destructive and deadly than what falls into the scope of this film.
The time since the release of this film in 2002 has seen many changes, including the evacuation of illegal Israeli settlements inside the Gaza Strip and the election of Hamas. However, the occupation and attacks against Gaza continue, and the blockade of Gaza has intensified. It is my hope that this film will provide a partial introduction to Gaza for those who have come to the subject recently, and also serve as a document of its time.
Longley’s films, which have won many international awards, include Sari’s Mother (2006) and Iraq in Fragments (2006) (More on Longley’s website)
Gaza Strip is a classic and Longley’s decision to release it online will mean many more people have a chance to see it and to understand why Gaza remains at the heart of the struggle for justice, freedom and human rights in Palestine.