Death in Gaza

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Death in Gaza

Starring: James Miller, Saira Shah

Director: James Miller

The film: In 2003, British filmmaker James Miller (right) was piecing together a documentary on the children of the Gaza Strip - and how they're affected by the mayhem around them - when he was shot dead, the bullet apparently coming from an Israeli patrol.

The event happened on the production crew's last night in

Gaza and naturally affected the focus of the film. It would have been impossible not to include the incident in the final cut and in the end the producers decided to bookend the film with it - first explaining what happened, and then playing out the scene as

it fits into the general timeframe of the narrative.

Miller's death casts a dark shadow over an already gloomy scenario. The children featured - two 12-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl - have death and destruction all around them: the film begins with children in a street, picking up pieces of flesh scattered when the Israeli forces detonate a bomb inside a car.

What the filmmakers set out to do - and what they have achieved - is to show how such incidents help shape the way these Palestinian children think, and live. The two boys are caught up in rhetoric and a fierce loyalty to their people - and well they might be, given what we are shown.

You can't help but sympathise with them and be a little sadden by their wide-eyed enthusiasm for the war games they play in the streets and the brave recklessness they show in throwing rocks at the tanks of their 'invaders'.

The film doesn't try to give the Israeli side of the story but, as the filmmakers are at pains to point out, this was never the intention. Originally, there was to be a second film, telling the story of children on the Israeli side of the conflict. The bullet that cracks through the darkness at the end of the film ends any hope of that.

And so we get one sad side of the picture - but it is a powerful story that leaves you wondering where things will ever end.

The film's release here has coincided with news last week that Israel's attorney general is looking into the Miller case, following a British coroner's court decision last year to rule his death unlawful.

The extras: Friends and colleagues are filmed telling anecdotes about and paying tribute to Miller in the Remembering James short, while the compilation of previews of his work reflects upon a remarkable career.

The 'making of' featurette fleshes out the story behind the story: how and why the team ended up where they were, what happened on that last night, and a family's continuing search for answers.

The verdict: A riveting examination of chaos and its effect on those caught up by it.