The Palestine Film Festival has been running from 20th April and will continue until 3rd May. Middle East LDN were fortunate enough to attend the UK Premiere screening of Gaza Hospital, a film by Italian director Marco Pasquini. Here’s what we thought of it…
The Gaza Hospital is a film that searches for the spirit of a community that many believed to have been lost. Depicting the transition of Beirut throughout the Lebanon civil war, Italian director Marco Pasquini centres the film around the Gaza Hospital, borrowing archive footage to show how it appeared during the 1970s, contrasted with how it appears today.
Thirty years before present day, the ten-floor hospital was one of the busiest in Beirut. Standing between the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, it witnessed the worst of the civil conflicts.
Though still referred to as the Gaza Hospital, the building today is in fact a shelter for hundreds of Palestinian refugee families. Barely recognisable as a medical facility, the building is dilapidated beyond repair and has suffered the ravages of war. But then so have the people living inside.
The majority of the film is narrated by medical staff and health care workers who worked day and night at the Gaza Hospital throughout the Lebanon conflict. Some of the staff interviewed are American or English; medics who travelled to Beirut in its time of need, while others are native to Lebanon. Each personal reflection on the events witnessed from the hospital are riddled with heartache and disbelief. The stoicism displayed by these witnesses when recounting events such as the Karantina Massacre, is a reflection of the strength that they possessed while dealing with the events first hand.
By bringing these doctors and surgeons to the modern day site of the Gaza Hospital, Pasquini creates a bridge between the then and now. The juxtaposition between archive footage of the hospital and the modern day scenes are an effective way of displaying the transition that the entire city has gone through.
Equally as important are the people currently living in the hospital. The refugees living in the squalid, concrete construction are given the opportunity to describe and explain their hardship. Many of them, of course, were present throughout the years of the Lebanon conflict. It is here that the ‘before and after’ structure of the film gives each retelling of events a deeply emotional core – it’s one thing to see a man lose his son to war, but to witness how it has affected him 25 years on is something even more tragic.
The Gaza Hospital shows how an effective structure and dynamic narrative can accurately portray scenes of personal affliction, whilst keeping the portrayal of real events accurate. The film keeps a firm balance between politics, emotion and hope for progress. Those unfamiliar with the context of the film will gain a detailed historical account of the conflict in Beirut. While those who consider themselves experts on the subject will find interest in the personal perspectives on offer, not to mention the cleverly sought out viewpoint of the hospital itself