Edward Norton once said –
“The best films of any kind, narrative or documentary, provoke questions.”
Yes, they do, at least every time I watch one at the I-House Film series. About an hour ago, I was reading a recent article on middle east. It reminded me of how, living at I-House, you just don’t hear about global issues but actually live them every moment. It could either be while interacting with a resident straight from the region or getting involved in an activity which shows you the crux of the situation.
Two years ago, as part of the I-House Initiative in Intercultural Leadership, I had to write a reflection for a cultural activity that I did. One fine evening, I just walked into the auditorium to watch this movie they were screening called Precious Life. Perfect! I watched it and wrote down my thoughts. Two years past, when I read it again today, it touched a nerve, to realize how apt it was to the current state of affairs. I therefore decided to reproduce it for you.
Let me know, what you think!
Here’s how it goes –
A masterpiece by Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, Precious Life chronicles the efforts to save a four year old boy, Mohammad Abu Mustafa, who is born without an immune system and will die in the absence of an immediate bone marrow transplant. Through the dialogue with people involved in treating the Palestinian boy at an Israeli hospital, amidst a war torn Gaza, Shlomi brings forward the deep cultural and emotional intricacies necessary to be overcome for Israeli-Palestinian harmony. Not only does the boy survive but the entire struggle leaves the audience with a plea to end human suffering.
This film won the 2010 Ophir Award (the Israeli Academy Award®) for Best Documentary, Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and numerous other nominations and the screening was co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel and International House.
Details, Analysis and Discussion:
The Palestinian boy, due to lack of facilities in Gaza, is first bought to an Israeli hospital by Shlomi’s efforts. The first hurdle is to raise funds for the treatment. Surprisingly, within minutes of recording the plight of the boy and his parents, in his isolated room at the hospital, an Israeli donates the entire amount needed. It is later revealed that he lost his son, a soldier in the Israeli troops, to the war. This makes one think about the humanly nature of an old man, ironically helping Palestinians against whom his son died fighting.
The major part of the film focuses on the struggle to acquire a DNA match from the boy’s relatives in Gaza for the transplant. We are introduced to the cross border complications and political issues forming the backdrop of the life-saving efforts of Israeli and Palestinian doctors, putting aside their racial and religious differences. Meanwhile, Mohammad’s mother, a woman named Raida, both draws scathing criticism from the Gazan community for seeking Israeli help, and alienates others by espousing her sympathy with Palestinian terrorist bombers during a dialogue with Shlomi, where she says that Jerusalem belongs to Muslims and Jews have taken it forcibly.
This leads Eldar himself – and the audience – into a deep-seated ethical quandary about saving the life of a child who may well grow up to be an extremist, sacrificing his own life to kill others. We also see deep into the mind of a mother, struggling mentally between her acceptance back into her community (by supporting their views) and being grateful to the Israelis actually putting efforts to save her son.
Soldiers, residents, activists and others coming to the hospital throughout the film to extend their support and sympathy for the parents, throw an intense light on the desire for peace and harmony among the people, which they are so much in the dearth of. In short, for me the movie revealed a paradoxical world where each must face their most profound biases as they inch towards a possible friendship in an impossible reality. Convincingly, the main protagonist and the true winner in the entire struggle is Precious Life itself!!
One of my strengths being Global Mindset as part of the class, I watched the film in continuation with my efforts to explore cultures of the world further through their response to war. However, the film made me think deeper about Hardiness which was my greatest weakness. The emotional struggle of the boy’s mother in the face of a culture she has always held negative stereotypes about was quite inspiring. It was symbolical of what not to hold against any culture and how to learn from its positives. She is quite amused by how caring Israelis are, unlike what she has always heard about them and is welcomed with open arms in their festivals in spite of a war back home. After an introspection post the film, I find myself better prepared to accept new cultures.
It was an emotionally stimulating experience. When the boy is injected with foreign DNA and his own body is initially continuously rejecting the foreign material, a line said by the doctor was metaphorical in summarizing my experience about a new cultural experience amidst a negative scenario.
“Each one is fighting against the other, when the only solution to survive is to live together.”