The War Around Us follows the only two foreign journalists who covered the 2008 War on Gaza, also known as Operation Cast Lead, Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros, both of whom were working for Al Jazeera English at the time.
The War Around Us is a very powerful documentary that aims to show the human side of conflict. People are used to reading headlines pertaining to deaths but what people don’t often hear, read, or see is the people behind the conflict. The civilians, the innocent families torn apart, the lifeless bodies of small children who should never know conflict, but instead, have to live and cope with the violence, tragedy and grief.
The documentary flips between showing images of the conflict and interviews with Mohyeldin and Tadros reflecting on their experiences. The interviews are raw and honest and give the viewers a good understanding of what they were going through in terms of the conflict and their friendship.
Tadros provides more emotion to the documentary as she had never covered a war before. She spoke about the emotional impact this had on her and her family, and in one scene breaks down in tears which was difficult to watch. At the end of the documentary, Tadros explicitly states that she would never allow herself to be in a situation like Gaza ever again.
One part of the documentary that stood out to me was when Tadros said she presented Mohyeldin with statistics on their chances of survival. Imagine putting yourself in that position, where you had to use numbers, and stats, and logic to try and reassure yourself that you would be alive the next day. That uncertainty is a constant for the people of Gaza.
Mohyeldin on the other hand never falters in his composure. He had experience in covering conflict and treated his reporting first and foremost as a job. Mohyeldin’s interviews were very honest, expressing the frustration and anger he had at the conflict and also at the world for turning a blind eye to the atrocities and human rights violations that were occurring.
No other Western media news outlet was covering the war, resulting in Mohyeldin and Tadros being asked by other news channel to cover the conflict on their behalf. This was a cause of frustration for Mohyeldin because he said those news channels had the audacity to question him, as if they didn’t believe his eye witness reports, or the channels would try and spin the coverage in a way that would suit the story they wanted to present.
Both Tadros and Mohyeldin ask unanswerable questions that strike at the heart of the conflict. Tadros states that if an atrocity like Gaza happened in another part of the world it would get international attention, so why are the lives of Gazans worth less?
The documentary was directed by Abdallah Omeish, director of the multiple award winning documentary Occuption 101 on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Omeish used strong imagery, from showing the victims of the conflict and the great destruction caused by the war. There were scenes that were very hard to watch, an example would be a father who comes into the hospital to find his missing child only to find her dead. His grief is so powerful he falls to the floor. Seeing the father’s grief and the bloodied body of the young girl who looked no older than five was one scene that made the whole audience gasp.
Watching this scene, of a moment so powerful, heartbreaking and personal felt uncomfortable, in an almost perverted way. I felt like I had no right to be included in his moment of anguish. I had this feeling frequently throughout watching the documentary because the cameras invited the viewer into the most personal and heartbreaking moments. But, the heartbreak needs to be seen and needs to understood.
Omeish also used interview clips of Israeli officials who defended Israel’s attack on Gaza and who vehemently denied Israel was violating human rights and international law. Omeish juxtaposed these interviews with testimonies from a human rights lawyer and a representative from the UNRWA, among others.
The War Around Us is a documentary that must be watched. The atrocities that happened in Gaza need to be understood. The plight of the people of Gaza today needs to be brought to light. I can only hope it will get broader viewership because it must be seen.
The documentary has been called Oscar worthy and won the Jury Award at the Newport Film Festival in California. The Toronto Palestine Film Festival opened with the award-winning documentary on Saturday, September 29th.
The website to the documentary with the trailer can be found here: http://thewararoundus.com/