Published Jan 01, 2011Fuck me, doesn't this try hard? And doesn't it look like it? Everything about Precious Life, right up to its Oscar short-listing last year, gives the impression that it required a great deal of effort on director Shlomi Eldar's part.
The overwrought quality of this documentary, which follows an Israeli journalist and Palestinian matriarch working together to save her disease-afflicted son, while struggling through mutual prejudices and conflict (and the suggestion that these people are straining at the very limits of their abilities) highlights just how sorely deficient they are as documentary makers and subjects.
Precious Life sounds like what it is: a dull-eyed, inept attempt at repackaging some decent themes ― Mid-East conflict, suicide bombers vs. life savers, religious wars, terrorism and outrageous Gaza poverty contrasted against land-o-plenty Tel Aviv ― into something new and impressive. The few gems in the rough, such as the realization they've shot their mouths off and become the very thing they hate, or the moment a young Palestinian girl steps on grass for the first time in her life, have the desired effect. But the didactic interjections by Shlomi Eldar manipulating each scene are, without exception, utterly dire and so lacking in finesse and invention that to expect any kind of audience response at all is, frankly, ridiculous.
Had Eldar's camera simply allowed Raida (the mother of sick baby Mohammed) to speak without framing her within his bias, we might have been left with a nuanced portrayal of a person battling her demons while struggling to save her son's life. Instead, Eldar does his best to embarrass a woman clearly out of her depth.
Special mention should go to Yehuda Poliker, whose charm-less, tuneless, clueless, Machiavellian musical score should have been ripped from his conductor's baton, sealed in a lead container and walled up within the Gaza strip barrier, where it could do no further harm. (Mongrel Media)