Gaza was a place where people once escaped to experience a liberal way of living. But it is now a dejected, rundown and overcrowded grey expanse.

It is a 25-mile Palestinian territory between Israel and Egypt, with all borders sealed off since being governed by Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, who took control in 2007.

Since then the future of literally millions of individuals have been put in jeopardy. Electricity is limited to 4 hours per day while their fishing range is a mere 3-mile radius, which leaves almost nothing for food. Unemployment is at 50% and the United Nations have estimated that the area will be unliveable by 2020.

Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, directors of this immersive film, were fully integrated into the lives of those in Gaza and open the film with sombre cinematography, instantly highlighting the normality of the impoverished population who live there.

Following a variety of different citizens in the region allows the audience to see a wide variety of perspectives. From those who have participated in the wars, to those who have chosen to keep working, and even those who have been brought into the situation with no choice and seemingly no further options.

We begin by following a young boy who tells us excitedly of his dreams to run his own fishing business with his brothers, of which he has many. His home has only three rooms and is too small to house him and his 13 siblings, so he usually sleeps on the beach. This is the same positive-negative storytelling we see throughout.

Gaza Film
Gaza Film C: Andrew McConnell/Panos

We are then introduced to a taxi driver who works all hours and is still unable to provide for his family. We see families who have left and those who have been close to death because of the conflict Gaza experiences.

The stories are moving and painful to imagine happening to ourselves, yet the resilient citizens of Gaza manage to continue to create theatre, produce rap music and designing clothes.

Karma, a young girl who is modelling and studying at University, says that she is ready to work further afield once the borders open – a concept that they always discuss as though it is realistically on the cards.

It isn’t until nearly an hour in when the optimistic momentum is flipped and we are fully submerged into the dangerous experiences we are more familiar with on the news.

Keane and McConnell pull no punches with their film. One sequence show the terrifying retaliation of Israeli’s to a youth’s stone-throwing and the children we only moments ago saw playing in the streets are now at face with death.

The scenes evoke a wide variety of emotion. Shocking, sensitive and brash all at once. The people we have got to know are running from the collapsing buildings and past the fallen wounded in a way that is now all too recognisable.

It’s at this point we appreciate how dangerous it is to live there, literally seeing how unstable the camera work is. It’s here we understand that the crew can leave, but the citizens cannot.

Gaza Film C: Andrew McConnell/Panos
Gaza Film C: Andrew McConnell/Panos

The emergency services in Gaza work on extremely limited resources and spend days away from their own families in order to aid the injured during protests and the conflict. We are told of the 2,200 protestors killed, with a shocking 500 of those being children.

The documentary puts a huge emphasis on the need to liberate the individuals and families in Gaza, but doesn’t look at the wider scale of the issue.

The absence of explaining what is happening between the Egyptian and Israeli governments creates a disconnect. It makes it complex to understand the argument to open the borders and the true consequences of doing so while under Hamas’ reign.

Gaza is a candidly touching and sombre work presenting the human side of the issue we rarely get to see.

Verdict: ★★★★☆