Documentary depicts Palestinian kids’ sense of loss, resolve to live

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

A Japanese journalist is set to release a documentary on Palestinian children who lived through the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.

In her latest film, “What We Saw,” which focuses on the Samuni family, who lost 29 members in the conflict, Mizue Furui depicts how the children have accepted the deaths of their loved ones and how they try to overcome them.

“The children told me what they saw during the attack so they could convey it widely,” said Furui, who has covered the Palestinian people for more than 20 years. “I wanted to record their vivid testimony.”

Furui went to the Gaza Strip in late January 2009, after tight restrictions on the entry of foreign journalists were eased after the ceasefire, and captured the suffering of the children there.

In the film, Canaan Samuni, age 12, collects spent cartridges around the damaged houses where he and his relatives lived because they “could be the bullets that hit my dad.”

His father was shot dead as he came out of his house with his hands up, Canaan said.

He said he collects the cartridges “so I will not forget what happened to my father.” He also picked up stones stained with his father’s blood.

About a half year since the conflict, in which more than 1,000 people, including many children, are believed to have been killed, Zenab Samuni, 13, who lost her parents and some siblings, has become a dedicated reader of the Quran and started wearing a headscarf.

“We can show our resistance not only through force of arms but also through religion and education,” she said. “The resistance through deep faith is even stronger than weapons.”

Furui’s film shows the children working to build new houses in support of their older brothers and uncles while planting olives, the symbol of peace, “although they know the trees may be damaged again,” she said.

“These children have grown up under the war since their birth, but they are trying to continue living,” she said.

“This film is not merely about a sad story.”

Furui now frequently visits Fukushima Prefecture to cover those who have been affected by the nuclear disaster.

“For me, people living in the areas around the Fukushima complex overlap with those in Palestine, as both of them have been deprived of their jobs, houses as well as lives,” she said.

“Currently, the issue of life and death must be familiar to many people in Japan in the wake of the March disaster, thus we feel closer to the Palestinian people and can understand their situations more deeply,” she said. “I hope many people see this film, particularly because we are under great hardships.”

The film is scheduled to be screened at a movie theater in Tokyo’s Shibuya district starting Aug. 6 and at another theater in Osaka this fall. Afterward, it will be screened nationwide.

A version with English subtitles is ready so it can be screened overseas and shown at international film festivals, Furui said.

She will also publish a book about the Palestinian children, based on the film, in August through a Tokyo publisher.

In her previous film in 2006, titled “Ghada — Songs of Palestine,” Furui depicted unknown lives of Palestinian women, focusing particularly on a young woman, Ghada. She won the Waseda Journalism Award in Memory of Ishibashi Tanzan with the film.

Furui is a member of Asia Press International, a group of independent journalists who provide their reports, photographs and video footage to television programs as well as print and online media.