"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Precious Life by Shlomi Eldar

Precious Life is a remarkably personal and emotional journey of a relationship that is created between an Israeli TV journalist, a pediatrician at Tel Hashomer Hospital, and a young, Palestinian mother from Gaza. Shlomi Eldar is a TV reporter. He reports that in these days, the only connection we still have with the Palestinians in Gaza is at a hospital in Tel Aviv. As a journalist who spent so much time writing about Gaza, going to Tel Hashomer is the only way for him to continue the connection. "So close yet so far," he says.
Shlomi receives a phonecall from Dr. Raz Somach, a doctor at Tel Hashomer, to come and see a child in isolation, a little boy named Mohammed, 4 1/2 months old, who is suffering from a terrible genetic disorder. If he doesn't get a bone marrow transplant soon, he will certainly die by the age of one year.
Since they are desperately looking for funds for the transplant, the doctor asks Shlomi to help raise the funds by publicizing the story via the media. So Shlomi prepares a TV broadcast and surprisingly, one donor calls and agrees to donate the entire sum. He wants to remain anonymous, but we learn that he is a Jewish father who lost a son, willing to donate $55,000 in order to try to make things different.
Ra'ida and Fawzi, the mother and father of Mohammed are cousins. They have already lost two of their children to this disease and Ra'ida lost two of her sisters the same way. The disheartening news is that none of Mohammed's three older siblings are a match for the transplant.
Following this news, there is a touching and emotional scene in the hospital. Ra'ida is weeping under her surgical mask in the isolation room, one of the older children is kissing and playing with the little brother through the plate glass window, and Fawzi is kneeling and praying to Allah in the corner of the room. The scene concludes with the music and lyrics from a well-known Yehuda Poliker song:
אלו החיים שלנו בזמן אחרון
יכול להיות יותר טוב, יכול לבוא אסון
This is our life lately, it could be better, or it could be worse.
Shlomi has a long conversation with Ra'ida who talks about how all Arabs are willing to sacrifice for Al Quds and they are not afraid of dying. When asked, she admits that she would want little Mohammed, if he survives and gets well, to become a shahid, a martyr. In the telling of these thoughts, she has a certain naivety and honesty. But Shlomi has crossed the line between being an objective journalist and he begins to talk about how angry he is. What is the point of doing somersaults in the air to help this child if his mother wants him to be a shahid? Eventually, however, it becomes clear that Ra'ida is in a very complex and difficult situation and she is worried about her reputation back in Gaza. People are talking about her, how she has become friendly with Jews, how her son is getting so much attention from the Israeli hospital, so many donations. She says that she has to please them, while worrying about her child and while collaborating with the Jews.
This is the documentary story of an impossible situation, the story of a relationship between a Palestinian Muslim woman, a dedicated Jewish doctor and an obsessive Israeli journalist. All of this on the background of kassam rockets, war in Gaza, and a bereaved father who wants to make a difference.
Precious Life is available from Cinephil

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