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Tears of Gaza | Review

Suffer the Children: Causalities of War on Display in Norwegian Doc

Vibeke Løkkeberg Tears of Gaza PosterNorwegian actress and director Vibeke Løkkeberg’s latest film, Tears of Gaza, is a visceral documentary depicting footage of the Israeli army bombing Gaza at the end of 2008 into early 2009. Perhaps more chilling and definitely more visceral than any fictional horror you’re apt to see, the salvaged firsthand footage of the bombings focuses on the women, children, and civilians slaughtered and maimed.

We loosely follow three young children, one young boy and two young girls, each having lost most or all of their family members in the bombings, witnessing first hand the slaughter of their loved ones. Losing track of the children, we get montages of deployed bombs, eradicated, burning buildings, charred bodies of kids dragged out of rubble like ragdolls. There’s absolute pandemonium with women and children screaming in the streets, lives wiped out before our eyes between blinks. The hospitals are overrun with a constant streaming of broken bodies, charred babies, the survivors cursing their embittered enemy, invoking incessantly their war worn deity in their anguished spite. War is hell on earth, and in-between the gut wrenching trauma, we witness children wise beyond their years, a young girl stating bluntly that “life is hard.”

In an effort to be objective, Løkkeberg doesn’t detail anything surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, any possible reasoning or rationale for these particular bombings, which of course doesn’t contend with any resolution to the misery we’ve been witness to. However, no matter how objective this approach seems, out of context, an ignorant audience can’t help but be angered by the unwarranted bombings from the Israeli army. The main thrust may very well be about the senseless tragedy of war, as well as the never ending cycle of hatred and vengeance it breeds, but beyond throwing some death tolls at us, it would have been beneficial to include historical information. Without this, regardless of intent, Tears of Gaza seems hopelessly biased and startlingly futile as we listen to small children that will nurse their burning hatred into a bitter adulthood, perhaps hellbent on destructive vengeance. Likewise, the common lament, “Have they no religion?” in reference to the Israeli army, yet neglecting to realize or consider it is exactly because of religions that we see the situation remain as virulent and volatile as it has ever been.

With original music by Marcello De Francisci and Lisa Gerrard, the mournful siren of Dead Can Dance, there’s a more haunting tone to the second half, after the hospital montages have ended and we listen to the young children once more, young children that wish they had been lucky enough to die with their loved ones. Tears of Gaza is assuredly an anti-war film, albeit one geared solely towards those that need no convincing.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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