Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Shlomi Eldar.
A raw and engaging mix of medical drama and topical examination of the Middle East conflict, Precious Life is as good an example of subjective journalism as you will see on the big screen. Veteran Israeli television journalist Shlomi Eldar has been covering the conflict in the Middle East for two decades, but he sacrifices his objectivity when he becomes involved in a human-interest story that cuts across the heart of the ongoing conflict.
Muhammad Abu Mustaffa, a Palestinian baby from Gaza, suffers from a deadly immune system deficiency and needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. Doctor Raz Somech, an Israeli doctor, is willing to perform the operation. The parents cross the checkpoint and take the baby to a hospital in Tel Aviv. They are unable to pay the $55,000 needed for the operation, but Eldar uses his position to broadcast a public appeal for help. When an anonymous donor – an Israeli who lost his soldier son in the war – gives the money the search begins for a compatible donor from within their immediate family back home in Gaza. The operation is successful, but that is not the end of the story.
Eldar holds out hopes that this operation will bring about a greater understanding between the two cultures, and he draws an analogy between the transplanted organ’s need to adapt and co-exist to survive and the ongoing conflict. Raida, the boy’s mother, marvels at what she witnesses in Israel, a modern and efficient country that is a complete contrast to her bomb-ravaged homeland. Eldar also takes Raida to Jerusalem to visit the Holy City that is normally inaccessible to Palestinians.
And there develops a warm friendship between Raida, Eldar and Dr Somech that holds out a hope for peace and understanding. But when Raida uses religious dogma to justify suicide bombings, and says that she would be happy to see her son become a martyr, Eldar’s anger and shock is obvious. A coda to the story sees Muhammad fall ill and require emergency surgery. But this coincides with the Israeli bomb attacks on Gaza, and makes it difficult for Raida and the boy to cross back into Israel.
Through Precious Life, Eldar raises some important ethical, moral and political questions, and explores the different mindsets that make peace in the Middle East such an impossibility. Eldar’s camera also takes us into Gaza to witness some of the devastation and misery caused by the violence, and these scenes are truly moving. Precious Life is thought provoking stuff.
The main fault with Precious Life though is that it becomes self-indulgent at times, and Eldar comes across as the hero of the whole enterprise and puts himself on camera far too often. Also the music score becomes a bit too mawkish and saccharine.