26 July 2011 | Red-125
Not really a feel-good documentary
The Israeli film Chayim Yekarim was shown in the US with the title Precious Life (2010). The movie was written, directed, and filmed by Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar. This film defies our expectations. It should be a feel-good movie, because it certainly has all the elements: a seriously ill infant from Gaza, a capable Israeli doctor who has the knowledge and desire to help the child, an anonymous Israeli donor who will pay for the procedure, and an Israeli hospital that welcomes patients from Gaza.
However, it's not a feel-good movie. Simply getting through the crossing between Gaza and Israel is a major undertaking. Getting the marrow donor across is another challenge. Keeping the infant alive when Israeli artillery shells are raining down on Gaza is a challenge.
Ironically, the child's physician is called up for service in the Israeli army. The doctor points out the bizarre situation where he may be part of a military force that is attacking the homeland of the child that he--as a civilian physician--is trying to save.
Everyone will assume that the parents of the child will be totally and absolutely grateful. They are, indeed, grateful. However, they are also furious--furious about the occupation of Gaza, furious about Jerusalem being in the hands of the Jews, and furious about the fact that the procedure can't be performed in Gaza. At one point, the mother even states that she would be proud if her son--once he is cured--became a suicide bomber. (Granted, this may be a statement made more for an audience at home, rather than for the journalist Sholmi Eldar.)
This is a complex film about a complex subject. As is so often the case, decisions made by leaders and military commanders at a high level play out in the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid who do not make the decisions. This is the reality, and it is faithfully portrayed in this excellent documentary.
By all means see this film, but don't go to it prepared to come out thinking that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world. We saw the movie at the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival, shown at the wonderful Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House.