No Sharp Objects (Documentary UNRWA)
source: Johann Eriksson
Because this is part of my thesis work, I felt good about blogging it this one time and sharing it with you. I was so fascinated and pleased to find this film. I am looking for the entire documentary and have so far just found this 4 minutes of it. Please enlarge the screen to get a real sense of it. I will do some research to find the entire work this weekend. I may share other amazing finds with you from time to time in the context of research only at this time. UNRWA does some amazing work with the people of Gaza. Bringing these 15 Gazan boys to America for a visit is just one of their many efforts. Here is the full story from The Guardian.
Coming to America: Gaza boys take trip of a lifetime
Film documents experience of 15 students who were taken on an eye-opening journey to New York arranged by a UN agency
The distance from Gaza to New York is 9,150km, but for 15-year-old Motaz Al-Jamal the gulf between the rubble of his hometown of Rafah and the neon glitz of Times Square could have been inter-planetary.
"It was wonderful, words can't help me," he said. "I have seen it in the movies but I never imagined myself actually being there."
Al-Jamal was one of 15 Gazan boys who left their besieged home, most for the first time, to visit the US earlier this year on a trip organised by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
Since Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza after Hamas took control in June 2007, it has been almost impossible for ordinary people to leave the territory. Even with the easing of the siege over the past few months, there has been almost no relaxation of the restrictions on the free movement of people.
But the top Gazan students on human rights courses taught in UN schools were lucky. They were instructed to pack for freezing weather, advised on how to use hotel key-cards and tutored on how to order a burger in a fast food joint.
Their trip was documented in a remarkable and moving film, No Sharp Objects by Johan Eriksson, which was shown in Jerusalem for the first time last night. The aim was not just for the teenagers to learn about the world beyond the Gaza Strip, but for the world – or a bit of it, at least – to learn about the boys' lives, the conditions in which they live, their demands for human rights and dreams of change.
Samer Manaa, whose dying father told him before leaving to show that Gazans "are people who have principles and values, of freedom for humans and freedom of thought", saw for the first time "all this greenery" in Israel en route to Amman. The only Israelis he had seen before were soldiers. "We drove into the heart of Israel ... It was my first time to see Israelis as they are in their community. Of course they seemed to be enjoying all their rights," Manaa said.
Once in the US, the boys visited the Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King centres in Atlanta, Georgia; the US Congress in Washington DC; and the UNheadquarters in New York. In the US capital, Al-Jamal spoke to congressman Keith Ellison, in hesitant English. "Me as a kid, I want to live in peace. I want to see a brightful morning. I don't want to wake to the shower of bombs that fall down on our areas. I have a home but it was absolutely ruined. My father works hard to save every penny for my life, for a brightful future ... I'm a kid, he's a kid, all of us are kids. But some day we are all going to be men. We'll make a future with our hands."
During a visit to an American home, the boys discovered "some things we didn't even know about," said Al-Jamal in the film. "They had PlayStations and this device called Wii. I was able to enjoy that ... and it's not going to happen again."
Amid other first encounters with snow, skyscrapers and six-lane highways – as well as astonishment at finding a Palestinian from Tulkarem in the West Bank serving their burgers in Atlanta – the group paused before a Holocaust exhibition at the UN headquarters.
As the boys considered the terrible images from the death camps, their teacher, Rafiq Murad, spoke of the significance of what they were seeing. "And so, guys," he concluded, "because we faced suffering and injustice we have to appreciate and understand the suffering of others, regardless of their religion and race."
A human rights curriculum is taught in UNRWA schools in Gaza, from six-year-olds learning about gender equality through roleplay involving rabbits and birds, to teenagers discussing US civil rights, apartheid and the second world war.
"There's a competition for influence here [in Gaza]," said John Ging, UNRWA's director of operations in Gaza after last night's screening. "We have to rise to that challenge. The competition comes from the physical environment, what we might call the rhetoric environment and the sense of confinement. You have to have a very effective programme to counter that."
UNRWA's human rights and gender equality programmes have come under attack by what Ging describes as extremists in Gaza. "We have to deal with that. But thankfully they are in a small minority."
UNRWA has organised several tours, of both boys and girls, to the US, Norway, the Netherlands and South Africa. Trips to Northern Ireland and Geneva are planned for next year.
The boys commented in the film on the contrast between their lives and those of their US counterparts. "Any normal kid dreams, and this dream might come true because they live in an open society. But when we dream we wake up in a painful reality," said Manaa.
Al-Jamal found America beautiful. "I didn't think I'm going to say that. But when I saw America, I thought ... the whole world should be like that."
Manaa found it strange to be back in Gaza, but said: "Despite everything that is happening in my country and the way it is, it will still be my country, with my people and my family living in it. I was really happy to come home."
- guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
~God Be With The Children Of Gaza~