Flying Paper, a forthcoming documentary by Roger Hill and Nitin Sawhney, tells the story of Palestinian children in Gaza who broke the Guinness world record for most kites simultaneously flown. The film was co-produced with young filmmakers in Gaza.
According to the film’s website:
Since summer 2010, we began working with a great team of Palestinian youth whom we trained through our Voices Beyond Walls youth media program to cinematically capture the culture of kite making and flying among youth and their spectacular record-breaking event, despite the ongoing blockade in Gaza.
The aesthetic and cinematic style of the film is intended to be intimate and direct in following the lives of a handful of young Palestinians in the simple act of making and flying kites in the desolate yet stunningly beautiful landscapes of Gaza. The film purposely uses hand-held cameras and close-up shots with various key characters, while engaging a group of young Palestinians trained as filmmakers to join the production team for authentic interviews and scenes.
The footage speaks for itself with personable characters taking the viewers through the narrative and adding a sense of drama through competitive kite flying. The visual dramatic tension of the final scenes of the film as we learn whether the youth actually break the word record are punctuated by intense interviews with the UN staff and international media coverage; however it’s the extraordinary stories of the youth themselves that leaves the audience with a new understanding and connection to life on this enigmatic little strip of land on the Mediterranean.
Honoring Gaza’s vibrancy
The Electronic Intifada contributor Anne Paq, whose powerful photojournalism is familiar to our readers, is also co-producer of the film. According to her, the film honors the vibrancy of Gaza society despite Israel’s cruel siege:
So yes, the general situation is very grim and desperate. However, Gaza has an inner beauty that I also wanted to capture and share. People of Gaza amazingly find strength and their way of coping is sometimes breathtaking. The seacoast is simply stunning; there is a buzzing subculture of arts and music that is alive and well. I met with artists, bloggers, activists, performers, surfers, Palestinians doing hip-hop, breakdancing, skate-rolling and parkour, on which I am preparing to write a photo story. Showing these positive stories of Gaza without dismissing the general context of military occupation and the siege is I believe crucial in exposing the complex reality of Gaza and reaching out to more people worldwide. I was therefore very happy to devote part of my time doing so while in filming essential footage needed for the documentary film Flying Paper.
In February this year, I had already visited the key characters of the film, Mussa, his sister Wedad, and their grandfather Abu Ziad (the Mukhtar or governor of the village) who all live in the village of Seifa in Gaza Strip, in the dangerous buffer zone very close to the northern border with Israel. I also met again with Abeer in the Jabaliya refugee camp, whom I knew earlier when I visited Gaza in late 2010 and did some follow-up work on the Voices Beyond Walls project. Abeer is a very strikingly intelligent young Palestinian woman with whom I can always relate very easily. She was one of the key leaders in the group of young filmmakers that Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill (the co-directors of Flying Paper) trained and worked with during their first summer in Gaza in 2010.
Besides being very at ease in front of the camera, Abeer enjoys both filming and asking questions during the interviews. Abeer has an ambition of becoming a professional journalist and I do hope she will pursue her dream as I am convinced from seeing her at work that she has such great potential. In February we worked together on recording some of her own texts that will serve as a narrative thread for the film, spoken as voiceover across key scenes. She came up with some very powerful and poetic words which perfectly embody the spirit of the children of Gaza and the significance of the extraordinary culture of kite flying there despite the dire situation there. Abeer is not just another character in the film; she is fully involved in the making of this film as a co-producer taking the difficult journey with the directors from its inception two years ago. She did have some very useful comments after she saw the first rough cut earlier this year, and we want to continue to work with her in the crucial last stages in finalizing the film’s footage for post-production. Hence, being back in Gaza working closely with Abeer on this film has been a joy for us both.