by Nic Olson
Since being a resident of the big city I have had the opportunity to engage in forms of social awareness media more than I did or could have in a less populated city. Or maybe it is just the interests of different crowds. Regardless, one of these events that I had the chance to participate in was the photo exhibition called ‘Human Drama in Gaza‘ presented by the organization called Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) which featured the photographs from journalists reporting from the Gaza strip in late 2008. Cities completely demolished, children crying in piles of rubble, bleeding men crawling out of doorways were the most memorable of the forty plus photos, all accompanied by brief descriptions or stories of life in war and wreckage.
The ‘Human Drama in Gaza’ exhibition is partnering with ‘Rachel‘, a documentary about a 23-year old American activist Rachel Corrie who was killed peacefully protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah, at the south of the Gaza strip. Both the exhibition and the film are being shown at Cinema du Parc, a small independent theatre in Montreal. The documentary was a search for truth in the tragic death of a young social activist in one of the most war torn places in the world, but also succeeded telling the story of Rachel’s socially conscious life through the eyes of her fellow workers of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). A brave group of young people living with affected families and standing up against the demolition of households and communities through non-violent action.
A third of the way through the film, between trying to translate the French subtitles of Hebrew interviews, there was a part of me that briefly wondered why there was a documentary made about this woman. Why, when Palestinian families have been killed in peaceful protest and have not had websites devoted to their name, nor movies made about them, when the money spent could have been used to support those very families in need. Even Alice, Rachel’s fellow activist there at the time of her death, told the story of Rachel’s body in the hospital being rushed out of the room to make way for a Palestinian man who had just been murdered by Israeli militants for no reason. Alice meditated on the idea that this man wasn’t going to get a movie made about him, nor would he ever be recognized as a martyr or hero as the media flocked around Rachel’s friends to get a piece of the story, but didn’t even regard the Palestinian man that was murdered. But the end of the film somewhat answered my short bit of uncertainty, when in Rachel’s own words, written as a letter home, she states the fact that it is an extremist view to think it is necessary for this kind of conflict to stop. That everyone should literally stop what they are doing to put an end to the injustices occurring in this part of the world, and how she believes that is not crazy to think this anymore. How she wants to live a life of boyfriends and beer and Benatar, but needs to see an end to the situation she has witnessed for so long.
The documentary allowed time for thought. Thought about peaceful protest, about the Israeli-Gaza strife, about the death of innocent local and international civilians. It is another source of awareness to the western world about the general situation of human beings in Gaza, awareness of the impact in theory that can be had without violence or government bureaucracy, awareness that people can protest peacefully, die for their cause and still have made little difference. The film ‘Rachel’ had the power to make aware the brave life of a young activist and the boldness to force the audience into the important institution of thought. Whether it be thought about the virtues of direct protest, or thought about the downfalls of even the best intentions of mankind.