Precious Life Shlomi Eldar

Precious Life Shlomi Eldar
Precious Life is the documentary directorial debut from Israeli broadcast journalist Shlomi Eldar and was an official selection of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. This month marks its debut on HBO. Baby Mohammed is born with a fatal immune deficiency disorder, which requires expensive bone marrow treatment, the focal point of this bleak look at civil unrest between Arabs and Jews in present-day Israel. The story of Mohammed, however, takes a back seat to a grizzly series of vignettes taken from news reports, spliced with Eldar's intimate experiences with Mohammed's parents, Raida and Fauzi Abu Mustafa. Due to Gaza's sanctioned state, the family must seek proper medical care in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. Eldar plays both director and antagonist to Raida, who quickly cements herself as the core of the film. The climax is Raida's powerful narrative about the definition of nationalism, life and death. This enrages Eldar, but fuels the film and what follows is a chilling expose of the savage living conditions Raida is subjected to in Gaza. Eldar's biggest downfall is his careful attempt to appeal to a broader audience. The director draws attention to obvious parallels between the two societies and throws in cliché metaphors to make sure we get it. We got it. In one scene, a doctor explains Mohammed's reaction to a foreign blood graft sample with a sweeping speech about a struggle between two elements that must live side by side. Precious Life was shot mostly using handheld cameras and little to no extra equipment. The minimalist style adds a raw feel to the grim subject matter and further solidifies the documentary as an example of strong cinema vérité-style film. Powerful moments are captured in over- and underexposed, shaky, hand-held shots and the director sticks to use of natural light. Eldar juxtaposes his scenes against a motif of news reports, from background noise coming from tiny television sets to his use of cuts and footage splices from similar news reports. Precious Life is a raw take on the relationship between civilians in Israel. Eldar justifies both nationalities and steers away from political issues to simply show the struggle of those confined to Gaza. (Mongrel Media)