Precious Life, 2010, USA/Israel
Precious Life is a documentary about Mohammad, an infant Palestinian child who was born with a genetic abnormality that leaves him without a functioning immune system. His parents, Raida and Faozi had already lost two daughters to this genetic abnormality. Mohammad is taken to a hospital in Israel that treats patients from Gaza and an anonymous monetary donation allows Mohammad to receive the bone marrow transplant he needs to survive.
Filmmaker Shlomi Eldar, who is a well-known reporter in Gaza reporter in Israel gets personally involved in the story, and chronicles Mohammad’s journey. He also spends considerable time with Raida, and conflict erupts when she states that she would be fine if Mohammad chose to be a suicide bomber down the line. This infuriates Eldar, but it also allows him to get deeper into the story and the complex political issues at play. Over the course of the film, there were a few conflicts between Israel and Gaza, including a war, where Mohammad’s doctor was called into action to serve as a combat physician. Raida and her family were stuck in a difficult spot: without medical intervention, Mohammad would have died, but by accepting assistance in Israel, many in Gaza branded them traitors.
It was a fascinating film. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people is enormously complex and I can’t even pretend to offer a solution to the ongoing issues in the region. Eldar briefly went into the propaganda reported on both sides of the conflict. And, I also got the sense that Eldar wanted to tell a humanitarian story: a story of Israel citizens helping out a young Palestinian child. Luckily, what he got was so much deeper.
Another issue the conversation between Raida and Eldar revealed was the differences in the way that life is perceived, which is where the titled of the documentary comes from. Eldar and other Jewish people feel that life is immensely precious, whereas Raida feels that life is not precious, that death is inevitable and she is willing to die for her religion and see her children die for their religion. It appeared that Raida’s perspective was shaped by the fact that she has seen so much death in her life.
Eldar’s experience as a reporter makes him an interesting documentarian. His questions are often blunt and he did not shy away from the religious argument with Raida, which added so much to the documentary. He narrates the documentary and at times inserts his own thoughts and experiences into the film; a necessity, since he got so personally involved in Mohammed’s treatment.
Precious Life was thought-provoking and a very different glance at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I really appreciated it. You can watch Precious Life on Netflix.