A man leans against a pillar weeping outside an emergency room. A reporter asks if he is a family member, he doesn't respond. As a covered corpse is carried out of the ER he unleashes a gut-wrenching wail. His cries echo down the hallway amongst simultaneous displays of grief from relatives as the crowd carrying the body leaves him behind.
This is the aftermath of one of the many bombings captured over the course of the documentary Ambulance. The film is a raw look inside the lives of ambulance drivers, as well as those living inside the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014, when they were bombed by the Israeli military for 51 days.
The film opens with a man's body being pulled from a pile of rubble and carried by a crowd, orbited by cameramen, to a nearby ambulance. During this sequence writer, director and videographer, Mohamed Jabaly solemnly states, “Some might say the war started for one reason… others might say it started for another reason … but no matter what reason… we woke up and found ourselves closer to death than ever.”
The documentary is presented from the perspective of 23-year-old Mohamed as he joins an ambulance crew at the onset of the Israeli offensive. As the film follows the ambulance crew, Mohamed observes how they mentally and emotionally combat the extreme conditions and events. Their attitudes swing like pendulums from faith and optimism to grief and despair, and are reflected by the citizens of Gaza whom they are assisting.
Mohamed explains early in the film that he does not wish to shelter with his 60 other family members and “wait for death.” The events--witnessed through jittery shots of people fleeing, rubble laden streets, shells of buildings, blood-soaked floors, and stretchers--speak for themselves. “God made us resilient.” “It is the generosity of God,” and “Thank God” are statements echoed by ambulance crew and residents of Gaza alike, throughout the film. They look at dire situations and try to find the humor and optimism of their circumstance. At one point, as they race toward the latest bombing, the ambulance driver and leader, Abo Marzaouq Khader Al-Helo, spots another ambulance. To Mohamed he expresses his desire for the better model of vehicle, who in response affectionately states, “isn’t life beautiful?” When Abo does not respond, Mohamed repeats the question. The now stone faced Abo never responds and instead stares a thousand yards through the windshield.
OVID.tv Film Captures Human Reactions to Extraordinary Times
The greatest achievement of the documentary, in this writer’s view, is capturing the range of emotion and reactions people have to extraordinary circumstances. Through the filming techniques, characters are endearing and relatable. “Smile you’re in Gaza” one girl stuck at the Egyptian border soberly states. Standing in the bombed out remains of a family's apartment, a teenage boy gingerly fishes a pair of jeans out of a dresser. In response, we hear Mohamed chuckle and state, “Oh thank god your jeans are okay.”
Mohamed consistently speaks with his subjects from behind the camera. When Mohamed expresses fear, we feel the fear of the everyday person living in Gaza. When Mohamed expresses joy, it can be seen reflected in the ambulance crew he is filming, who know him intimately. The shaky footage emphasizes what it’s like to live through a bombing. A rocket strikes, the camera rattles, the sounds of debris and metals clash on the ground and echo throughout the residential streets, as we hear noises of hyperventilating terror from Mohamed. In crowded emergency rooms and ambulances, Mohamed is often feet away from surgeons, EMT’s or severely wounded patients. The emotion and urgency are palpable. Mournful cries of those who have lost loved ones, the panic of those fleeing the scene of a bombing or the comfort of friendship and family.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the most heatedly debated geopolitical events for decades. This film peels away political stances and presents the harsh reality for those living under siege in Gaza. Ambulance is about human spirit rather than political statement. This is not a film for anyone who is seeking light-hearted content. For those who are interested in current events, geopolitical issues and humanitarian crises, Ambulance is a perfect fit, providing an intimate look into the lives of people living and working in Gaza under siege.
Writer, Director and Videographer -Mohamed Jabaly
Abo Marzouq Khader Al-Helo
Abo Nedal Ramadan Harazeen
Visit OVID.tv page for Ambulance for information on where to view the film and upcoming screenings.
About the Author:
Max Harris-D’Amato is a freelance writer, who graduated from Columbia College Chicago in the spring of 2019 with a B.A. in multimedia journalism. In addition to both short and long form writing he has also directed a documentary, Surfing the Rust Belt, which he personally pitched, shot video, edited and conducted interviews for. In addition to writing, he has served with AmeriCorps on the Pacific Crest Trail and teaches English as a foreign language. He is passionate about traveling, current events and conservation.
Watch Max D’Amato’s film SURFING THE RUST BELT here.