Gaza Surf Club is a documentary film directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine about surfers in Gaza. The film focuses mostly on three people: the main protagonist, Ibrahim, a 23-year-old man who wants to go to Hawaii to train and learn, Sabah, a 15-year-old girl who once loved to swim but has had to mostly give up the sea, and Abu Jayab, a 42-year-old fisherman who teaches surfing to young men.
The documentary does not dwell much on the siege or the interminittent wars, though these are the background to the realities people live. For example, one person mentions that donated surfboards were held up in Israel for two years, and only let through after the Red Cross intervened. For the most part, however, the film is about what the waves mean to the surfers and what the sea means to Gazans.
As the directors put it in a Q&A event at the Frontline Club, in Gaza “the journalists are always there when death happens, but never there when life happens.” An interesting question came up when the directors mentioned they had been initially intending to make a film about breakdancing, parkour and surfing — was this about “life” and things that represent individual freedom, or about “things that seem Western”? And what is the perception of what is Western? What would this film have been like if it was about a different sport, like sailing or horse-racing?
The symbolism of the sea as Gazans only escape is a recurrent theme uniting the different stories, and the soundtrack by Sary Hany does a great job highlighting this theme, mixing classical Arabic and Western style music, especially the song at the end, with the lyrics “I am waiting for a wave to shake the world, every day I am waiting for a wave, to lift away the the cloud of worries.”
مستنى موجة تهز الكون…مستنى الموجة كل يوم… تشيل سحابة الهموم