The war in Gaza, so near and so far from the Cannes Film Festival

“They are history”: filmmaker Rashid Masharawi, born in Gaza, remotely supervised around twenty Gazan filmmakers, on site, documenting the war in short formats, shown on the sidelines of the 77e Cannes film festival.

The 62-year-old veteran director was abroad when the conflict broke out. He coordinated the work of his peers who were “filming and at the same time struggling to stay alive, protect their families, find food, wood to make a fire, a tent, insulin to a loved one, an ambulance to save children.”

The result is a collection of short formats brought together under the label Ground Zeroa project screened on the sidelines of the festival.

In one such short film, a mother displaced by conflict dips her daughter into a large white bucket and, with a clean coffee pot, gently pours water to bathe her. In another, a man recounts his 24-hour ordeal under the rubble after the building he was in collapsed.

“Sometimes we waited a week to ten days to be able to contact someone, or just for them to find an Internet connection to download,” says Rashid Masharawi.

“Our storytelling is more important than ever,” says director Mohamed Jabaly, based in Norway, who came to show Life is Beautiful, documentary just before the conflict. A close friend who had worked on the last plan did not survive the conflict. “He was killed while queuing for food aid.”

Munir Atalla, head of Watermelon Pictures, a distribution company based in the United States, wants to bring this original family portrait to North American audiences. “Palestinians have been excluded by the gatekeepers of the film industry for too long.”

The American public has already seen Amreeka (2009, also called Amerika), of the American-Palestinian Cherien Dabis. But the shooting of his latest film was interrupted by the war in Gaza.

One of the team members on the ground in Ramallah, West Bank, Ala’Abu Ghoush, produced a documentary on the stalled project, Unmaking Of. “The film really raises the question of the importance of cinema and art in this kind of situation, in this war,” he concludes.

The October 7 attack, carried out by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

Of the 252 people taken as hostages on October 7, 124 are still being held in Gaza, including 37 dead, according to the army. In November, a one-week truce allowed the release of around a hundred hostages in exchange for Palestinians detained by Israel.

In response to the attack, the Israeli army launched a devastating offensive in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the United States in particular, took power in 2007.

At least 35,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died in this offensive, according to data from the Health Ministry of the Hamas-led Gaza government.

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