Caught between Israel and Egypt, assailed by airstrikes and rockets, the Gaza Strip has been called "the world's largest open-air prison." But Gaza is also bordered by the Mediterranean, and the sea's majestic white caps are drawing a new generation to the country's coastline to taste freedom in the rolling surf. This heartfelt documentary from directors Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine takes us into the world of Gaza's surfing enthusiasts and reveals a formidable resilience pulsing within a beleaguered population.
For the young surfers at the center of GAZA SURF CLUB, social forces present challenges as great as any wave can. Ibrahim, a hardworking 23-year-old, has jobs as an orderly and a lifeguard, but his all-consuming dream is to construct a facility that would function as a surf club, archive, and meeting place for Gaza's youth. Ibrahim is desperate to go to Hawaii to train as a surfer and surfboard maker. There are, however, numerous obstacles. Chief among them is simply getting out of the country. Ibrahim speaks of being denied entry to Egypt five times — after paying prohibitive fees simply for the application. Another determined character is Sabah, a 15-year-old girl who loves the water and longs to surf. The sport is considered shameful for women in her conservative community, but her father hopes to give her the opportunity.
The interviews assembled by Gnadt and Yamine are candid and insightful; their visuals speak volumes about the contrasts of life in Gaza. They tour the pockmarked dirt roads and heaps of rubble. At one moment they spot an abandoned tank tread in a park that could be mistaken for public art. They then reveal the splendor of the sea and those who thrive on the rush of open water. What might seem like a fun weekend sport to some is for these young people an expression of defiance and, ultimately, hope.
- Thom Powers, Toronto International Film Festival
This films is nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary.