Life at the Wall

Al Jadid Staff

This Way Up
Directed by Georgi Lazarevski
Icarus Films, 2008

While most documentaries on the occupation of Palestine focus on the abuse of innocent civilians,”This Way Up,” winner of several awards including the 2008 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, takes an original and poignant view of the social effects that Israel’s nine meter high cement wall has on a unique Jerusalem community.  Lazarevski’s unrelenting yet artistic camera locates itself in the Notre Dame des Douleurs nursing home, rendering the restricted isolation as the nearness of death reverberates in a circumference of cement.  The entire nursing home community, including the patients, the nuns and the workers, becomes a startling metaphor for the occupation.  Beginning at daybreak, the film tells the story of housewives and businessmen, teenagers and children, as they climb down the wall to enter the Occupied Territories in order to go about their daily business. A brilliant marriage of form and content, “This Way Up” presents the indeterminable slowness of life in the nursing home, the endless ambling down the halls, the endless wait for family visits and the painful phone calls postponing those visits because of the ‘situation.’  The unhurried camera shots of the seeming endless cement wall around the enclosed sunlit churchyard of a nursing home echoes the angry and futile political commentary made by the bed-ridden and wheel chair-bound patients.  In a valiant attempt to endure this last curse on their final days, the patients bicker and remember and celebrate a semblance of Christmas.   The patients’ spirit and humor momentarily alleviate the bleak irony of a ‘security’ wall around a Christian nursing home.  In his film, Lazareski blends art and life in such a way that the viewer can almost smell the antiseptic halls, the white starch of the nuns, and the suffocating dust from the cement. 

This review appeared in Vol.16, No. 62, (2010).

Copyright © 2010 by Al Jadid

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