"Gaza Mon Amour": A Different Look at Contemporary Gaza

Love is Present in Gaza Despite War and Siege!

Issa (Salim Daou) and Siham (Hiam Abbas) waiting for transport in a scene from “Gaza Mon Amour”. (Supplied)
Issa (Salim Daou) and Siham (Hiam Abbas) waiting for transport in a scene from “Gaza Mon Amour”. (Supplied)

"Gaza Mon Amour": A Different Look at Contemporary Gaza

Speaking about Palestine or Gaza strip in specific always comes with mentioning the war and the people's lives between rockets and strikes, the prison they are living in, and the city which is punished by a suffocating siege by the Israeli occupation authorities abroad, and by the Hamas authorities inside.

This suffering made people remember the strip which overlooks the sea, which is limited to only three miles for sailing and fishing, with misery, devastation, and occupation, but despite all this, there is life! There are people who aspire to lead a normal life, to work, to listen to music, and to love!

Issa (Salim Daou) and Siham (Hiam Abbas) in the market in a scene from “Gaza Mon Amour”. (Supplied)

"Gaza Mon Amour" draws a picture for us representing Palestinian society with its difficulties and pain, but also with its feelings, passion, and human side to announce that the truest thing that we should always owe to is love, and how does it make our life tolerable, in any age and under any circumstances.

The film was written and directed by the Twins Tarzan and Arab Nasser and it is their second feature film which is a joint Palestinian-French-German-Portuguese production starring Salim Daou, Hiam Abbas, Maysa Abdel-Hadi, Georges Iskandar, and Manal Awad. The Gaza film was nominated to represent Palestine at the 93rd Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category.

It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and participated in several international festivals, including the Chicago International Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, and Zagreb Film Festival.

Recently, the film won the Critics' Prize at the Freiburg Film Festival in Switzerland. It also won Best Actress and Best Film at the Arab Film Center Critics' Awards and several international awards including the Best Actor Award for its hero Salim Daou from the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden, the Asian Film Support Association (Netpac) award from the Toronto International Film Festival and the Best Arab Film award from the Cairo International Film Festival. It continued to gain awards by winning The Best Actor Award in Antalya Film Festival, and two awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay from the Valladolid International Film Festival.

The storyline takes place in Gaza which is under the control of Hamas where Issa (Salim Daou) who works as a fisherman, falls in love with his neighbor in the market, Siham (Hiam Abbas), who works as a seamstress in a women's clothing store. Before he proposes to her, he finds during a hunting trip a statue of the god Apollo which gets him into trouble with the authority after he hides it in his house. But in the end, he decided to propose to her and get married.

Issa (Salim Daou) when finding the statue of Apollo in the sea of Gaza. (Supplied)

But what does the statue of Apollo refer to here? Apollo is the god of the sun according to the Greeks, and Issa found him drowning off the shore of Gaza which represents the painful reality of this city, or maybe finding it represents the light of the dream for those people who live in this difficult reality and imagine that one day things get better.

The statue also appeared with an erect penis in a symbolic reference to Issa, the Palestinian man who is 60 years old and lives alone dreaming of Siham, the widow who lives with her divorced daughter and thinks about his virility all the time.

The film is not only about Issa and Siham but also refers to the political crisis in Gaza. We see Al-Aqsa posters and ringing slogans on the walls, the attempts by Hamas officials to sell the statue to an international museum, and Hamas forces celebrate with a small rocket with enthusiastic songs and supporters.

The locations of the film reflect the reality of the Gaza society whether in the police station, the cost of Gaza, Issa's house or Siham's house, the market and the streets of the strip. This atmosphere is represented well in the cadres and lighting of the film.

Siham (Hiam Abbas) sitting and thinking in her house in a scene from “Gaza Mon Amour”. (Supplied)

Every scene tells something even if indirectly, starting from the first scene of the soldiers preparing food while watching a war movie on TV to the last intimate scene between Issa and Siham in the boat amid the scattered roses and the shots of the occupation army warning them because they have exceeded the permissible limit for sailing.

The cold colors in most of the scenes reflect the unwarm mood of life on the strip where some of its residents think of leaving searching for freedom and bright life. The lighting was vague to represent the real life of the residents who suffer from permanent power outages. What also gives the film a different taste is the usage of the music by making a unique mix between classical Arabic music and international classical music in scenes.

Concerning the acting, most of the characters were placed well in their roles, especially the hero of the movie, Salim Daou who plays his first character in cinema. When watching you can feel that Issa is a really lonely fisherman who is living randomly and making clashes with the security authorities, but at the same time, despite the toughness he is known for, he becomes nice with a shy, lovely heart when seeing Siham.

Gaza Mon Amour highlighted aside we are not familiar with in the world of Gaza, the city which witnesses a lot of conflicts and death. I think it succeeded in breaking the stereotype of Gaza city. The name of the film, for me, is so related to its idea. Is there love without loving the place where we belong? Is the love of ourselves and others separate from the love of our country?

Gaza, perhaps one day, will be a city without war or siege and get rid of all sadness and cries, and love will find its way to all its streets and districts. The message here is clear, people are capable of life and love amidst destruction, strictness, and occupation because we are as we are, humans with lots of feelings.


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