Mohamed Jabaly is a young Palestinian filmmaker from Gaza City. Having been born during one war and grown up during another, he has started to regard fighting as a means to an end, a normality that is part of everyday life. Realising this horrible truth he decides that it is time to explore his thoughts and views on conflict in more depth.
His idea is simple, go out with those on the real frontline: ambulance personnel. He wants to find out how those confronted daily with the human damage of the war think of the bloodshed. Is it a necessary evil or just evil?
On the first day of the war in 2014 the young filmmaker asks the hospital director if he can join a team with his camera. “Being with the ambulance unit felt comforting,” Jabaly explains later. “It was a good way to escape my fear. I didn’t want to sit at home with 60 family members seeking shelter.”
It is this idea which allows him to turn his past into an opportunity of some sorts, exploring people’s perceptions through the bloodshed that takes place on a regular basis in Gaza by filming from the front seat of an ambulance. Though the crew are reluctant at first, they form a bond, both with Jabaly as well as with the camera, which becomes a comforting feature in the madness that unravels as the war goes on and on.
The footage is raw, hard hitting and unforgiving. The viewer is spared nothing as we see the bodies of those hit by missiles, bombs and gunfire being dragged out from under the rubble and into the ambulance.
The blank faces of the dead are vivid in the bright white lights of the camera. As the war advanced so does the suffering.
The fundamental difference with many other films about this conflict is that as a filmmaker reporting on one of the most reported and judged conflicts, Jabaly does not venture into politics. He passes no judgement, nor does he asks others to do so. His role is merely to observe – even when the conflict comes close to home. So close to home in fact that it is the ambulance staff, including the young Palestinian, who come under attack. When this happens the footage that is captured by the still-rolling camera provides the viewer, but also the filmmaker, with some daring truths about human nature.
Ambulance is a documentary which shows the full consequences of conflict and reflects on the thoughts of those who have to see it as their every day reality. In 2014 Gaza saw a full 51 days of war, but the story does not end there.
The documentary Ambulance will screen at Sheffield Doc/Fest on Sunday 12 June at 3pm at the Curzon Screen 1.