UK-based French filmmaker Martin Ginestie’s short film In Defense of the Rocket can be described in a sentence: the rise and fall of the Middle East peace process in news photos, set to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.
Though precise, this description cannot do justice to the six-minute film’s visual and emotional impact.
Watch it above.
Completed in 2015, In Defense of the Rocket has been screened at numerous film festivals in recent months, including its premier at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, at Canada’s HotDocs as well as in Sarajevo and Milan.
Ginestie told The Electronic Intifada that the title has been the most controversial aspect of the film.
“At festivals, I’ve definitely got people being offended by the title,” Ginestie said. “But that was the purpose.”
“The moment of inspiration for the film was the bombing of Gaza in 2014, because I was just trying to find something positive from that event,” Ginestie added. “It was very hard to find anything positive.”
“The ambition of the film was to provoke Western liberals – at the time there was a lot of sympathy for Palestinians but very little sympathy for armed resistance,” Ginestie added. “That was kind of a red line. I wanted to provoke people, not to support armed resistance – it’s not for us to decide how Palestinians resist colonization – but to get people to reframe the Western debate about the use of violence.”
“I wanted to make a film that retraced the past 20 years of Palestinian politics and give some kind of historical logic for what the Palestinian resistance was doing,” Ginestie said.
But even having that debate is difficult in European countries that are increasingly cracking down on free expression.
Ginestie said that the French political group Égalité et Réconciliation asked him if it could put the film on its website, but warned it could not do so using the English title, for fear of being prosecuted under French laws that prohibit “apologie du terrorisme,” or justifying terrorism.
So Ginestie agreed to change the French title to Palestine année zéro – Palestine Year Zero – which had been his working title.
“It felt like if this was to be the final nail in the coffin of the peace process, the moment where everyone can see that the process going on for 20 years was nonsense, then this could be a kind of a year zero from which new possibilities would emerge in the rubble of Gaza,” he said.
But was the 2014 Gaza war really a year zero for Palestine, when the “peace process” refuses to die, no matter how many times it is eulogized?
“I think for a lot of younger people, it definitely was,” Ginestie insists. “And for older people who were never that interested, or knew enough to take sides, as it were.”
According to Ginestie, the Gaza war was a moment “when things swung massively in favor of the Palestinians, in the real world – even in the United States – not in the fake world of politics. And in the end, that is how history is going to be written, not by John Kerry or Donald Trump.”