Born In Gaza (2014) Film Review

A Must-Watch Documentary About Palestine
Sophia Wasylinko reviews Born In Gaza (2014), a documentary about the 2014 Gaza War and its impacts on 10 Palestinian children.
Film Poster for Born in Gaza

Poster for Born In Gaza.
Courtesy of: Contramedia Films and La Claqueta PC

12.01.2023 | Reviews

CW: Physical injuries, psychological trauma, and suicidal thoughts involving children.

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On November 22, VIU’s Muslim Women’s Club screened Born In Gaza (2014). The documentary was filmed during and after the 2014 Gaza War which ended with 2,251 Palestinians killed, including 551 children.

Born In Gaza follows 10 Palestinian children: Mohamed, Udai, Mahmud, Sondos, Rajaf, Malak, Motasem, Hamada, Bisan, and Haia. The violence has aged them; sometimes they smile, but they mostly stare at the camera with somber expressions. 

Mohamed is his family’s breadwinner. “I work no matter how hard it is, ‘cause I need to support my family and save them from starvation,” he says. “I do not care whether it is hard or not. I need to make a living this way.”

Mohamed at work.
Mohamed at work. 
Courtesy of: Contramedia Films and La Claqueta PC

Almost half the children have been injured. Bisan, who lives with Haia, was wounded in an Israeli bombing that killed her family. 

Sondos got hit by grapeshot during an attack on a mosque. “I am a child. They should not do this to us,” she says. “I do not have any missiles, and I do not drive a tank or anything like that. I am not a militiawoman. Why are they doing this to us?”

Mahmud’s father’s farm was destroyed multiple times by Israeli soldiers. “We grow vegetables,” not bombs, he says. “They do [not] have any reason to come bomb us.”

Hamada, Motasem, and two other boys survived an Israeli missile strike that killed four children, including Motasem’s brother. 

“We live a shitty life,” Hamada says. “I am like any other child. This is not life for us.”

He worries about Motasem. “He sees stuff every day. He sees dead kids.”

Motasem attempted suicide days before their interview. “I have weird feelings. I tell my mom every day I want to die.”

Hamada and Motasem recalling the attack on the beach.
Hamada (L) and Motasem (R) recalling the attack on the beach.
Courtesy of: Contramedia Films and La Claqueta PC

Udai’s brother was hit by a missile before his eyes. “The largest piece of him left was this size,” he says, holding his hands inches apart.

Rajaf’s father, an ambulance driver, died in an Israeli attack on August 1, 2014. His younger brother seems haunted by the man’s ghost.

I cannot find a reason why [my dad] was attacked,” Rajaf says. “Are you asking me why they bombed an ambulance? Have you ever heard of any war where ambulances are attacked?”

With everything that’s happened, Hamada has become jaded. “No one is helping us. [The governments] … promise and promise, but they leave and forget about us. [They] tell us they are going to help us, but they lie.”

When the war finally ends, there’s little celebration. “We could rebuild our house,” Udai says, “but we will always be afraid of another war to come and destroy it again.”

Mohamed’s hopes were dashed: “We thought the border crossing points would be opened after the conflict and there would be work. We would be better. It turns out we are now worse than back then.”

Malak’s cousin and brother died in Israeli strikes on the UN-run Jabalia Elementary Girls School. She sums it up best: “I wish there were no more wars after this one, but I have got the feeling there will be more. It is the same old story every one or two years.”

However, some children still have hope for the future: Haia and Malak want to be doctors, Bisan an English teacher, Mahmud an agronomist, and Motasem and Mohamed fishermen.

Bisan and Haia playing together.
Bisan (L) and Haia (R) playing together.
Courtesy of: Contramedia Films and La Claqueta PC

At the end of the film, Mohamed swims in the Mediterranean Sea. “I would love to be in the sea all my life, swimming and living in it,” he says. “Leave all problems behind and keep living my life in the sea.”

Born In Gaza was released nine years ago, yet its shots eerily resemble images from the recent devastation of Gaza. As of November 29, 2023, at least 15,242 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since October 7. Of this total, 6,207 were children. 

Director Hernán Zin has announced a follow-up film, Born In Gaza: 10 Years Later. He’s currently raising funds and awaiting permission to enter Gaza. 

Born In Gaza is available for streaming on Netflix. The official YouTube version has some scenes cut; instead, look for a free version that’s over an hour long.

Headshot of Sophia Wasylinko
Editor

Sophia is in her third year at The Navigator and fifth (final!) year of the Creative Writing and Journalism program. Outside of The Nav, she volunteers as a Peer Helper and is doing another year of Portal Magazine. This summer, a solo trip to Japan ignited Sophia’s wanderlust. She hopes to return soon, next time with a stop in Korea.

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