A new film by Gaza-based university lecturer and independent filmmaker Wael al-Sousi highlights in elegiac footage the scale of the devastation which Israeli bombardment visited on the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in summer 2014.
Echoes of Beit Hanoun is a simple but beautifully shot short film. It is screening at several festivals this summer and will be available for public viewing on YouTube for five days from the date of publication of this post, and then from September.
With slow, sweeping footage, the somehow spectacular and almost unbelievable scale of the destruction is rendered all the more poignant by the beauty of the sunsets and golden quality of the Gazan sunlight in which it is filmed.
The images are presented without narration or comment; all the viewer hears are the sounds of bombardment and the voices of terrified people under attack with an unobtrusive musical accompaniment.
At the time, some commentators speculated that the unprecedented scale of the bombing of Beit Hanoun was a deliberate move by the Israeli military, aimed at further reducing Palestinian access to the Erez checkpoint in the run-up to possible pressure to negotiate over Gaza-West Bank links.
Director Wael al-Sousi, whose short film Gaza 1920s was shown at the 2014 Bristol Palestine Film Festival, says of the impetus behind the film that:
It was the summer of 2014. Israel waged war on Gaza.
From inside the walls of my home I heard continuous bombardment. It was as if the sounds came from “somewhere else,” from a far off place in the distance. Somewhere, but not here.
When the attacks ended I visited Beit Hanoun, one of the areas most heavily bombed.
There I heard an echo of the sound of explosions, the echo of a sound of horror that resonated with each destroyed home I saw. There the sounds filled the emptiness, they overwhelmed me because I realized that “somewhere else” was here.
The sparse soundtrack highlights these “echoes” going on in al-Sousi’s head, giving a sense of unreality which jars with the total destruction in front of the viewer’s eyes.
The film closes with a testimony from a Palestinian woman from Beit Hanoun, in which she promises that she will tell her children and her children’s children about this attack. The “echoes,” we see, are not just in al-Sousi’s head, but will also reverberate down the generations.
News of screenings and other information about the film is available on its Facebook page.