Film: Rachel – An American Conscience
In Memory and Honour of Rachel Corrie
Mittwoch, 11. November 2009, 19 UhrDirector: Yahya Barakat, Palestine, 2005, 80 minutes, documentary English language with Arabic subtitles
“Rachel - An American Conscience” is a documentary which chronicles Rachel Corrie’s humanitarian work with the International olidarity Movement in Rafah, Gaza Strip, until the date of her murder in March 2003. While Rachel stood in front of a Palestinian home to prevent its demolition, an Israeli solder in a Caterpillar D-0 bulldozer crushed her to death. Yahya Barakat received a B.A. in film directing from the Academy of Arts at the Higher Institute of Cinema, Egypt. As well as working in film he has also been a lecturer at the College of Media in Al-Quds University since 2002. Barakat’s films include Baytullah (The House of God, 42 minutes, 2003) which recounts the dramatic siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during the Israeli re-invasion of Palestinian areas in the West Bank in April 2002.
About Rachel – About the Film
The late Rachel Corrie (1979 – 2003) was articulate, straightforward and resolute. Her castigation of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian people and the disregard of the Israeli government for the safety of Israelis and Palestinians rang with clarity. Through peace activism she ascertained the facts on the ground.
The documentary “Rachel – An American Conscience”, chronicles her humanitarian work with the International Solidarity Movement in Rafah, Gaza Strip, just prior to her murder in March 2003.
While Corrie stood in front of a Palestinian home to prevent its demolition, an Israeli soldier in a Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer crushed her to death. Director Yahya Barakat, a professor in the Mass Media and TV Department at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, edited 80 hours of film footage from Gaza, the West Bank and Olympia, Washington, for two years. He created a cinematic collage of international voices; people who work for peace and who support the Palestinians in their daily lives. Through interviews, Barakat presents a collective chastisement of the Israeli military occupation, the U.S. and Israeli governments, as well as U.S. mainstream media.
In Gaza, Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a walk to school is a life or death situation for Palestinian children. They are often attacked by Jewish settlers and soldiers. Rachel Corrie made a conscious decision to travel to Rafah and assess the root causes of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Through interviews with her parents, viewers learn about Rachel. When Rachel was ten she made a list of her future professions. One of them was a humanitarian activist. Her parents, Cindy and Craig, read her stories about the Holocaust. She composed poems and she constructed crafts for her mother. She loved the Pacific Ocean and it bothered her that the Palestinian children of Rafah had no access to beaches when they were steps away from the Mediterranean Sea.
Her parents’ perception of the conflict changed when they read Rachel’s writings because they did not see this information in U.S. mainstream media. Internationals expressed their shock and their distress at the violence of the occupation. They talked about the peacefulness and the generosity of the Palestinians.
Cindy Corrie said her daughter had a gift for acute observations. In front of the camera, Rachel’s command of language and analysis of the conflict resounded with intelligence. She not only had a sharp mind but she had a great heart. She was a young woman of character and valour. Barakat uses photo stills to re-enact what happened the day Rachel was killed. The bulldozer treaded the ground and Corrie, in an orange, flack jacket, stood her ground. She would not allow the destruction of a family’s home, people she lived with for several weeks. If their house was destroyed where would they live?
The Israeli soldier crushed her. Eyewitness accounts concurred that the soldier saw Corrie. After the occurrence the unknown Israeli soldier smiled and waved to witnesses from the cab of his bulldozer. Yet he would not step out of it and face his unarmed victim. The soldier’s behaviour in front of the camera showed that his humanity fell to the wayside. The first Israeli fact-finding report about Rachel Corrie’s death was an outright lie because it stated the bulldozer never touched her. The film shows footage from the cab of the bulldozer. The solder said: “I hit an object (military terminology for a person)”. The fact that the soldier never came forward publicly demonstrated that he had learned nothing from his crime. Activists mourned Rachel’s death and they brought carnations to the site. Barakat explores the meaning of conscience and how people apply it to their lives. The film has the philosophy that some people commit wrongs and some people respond to them with non-violent resistance. In the end, the viewer is left to decide whether s/he stands by idly with indifference, or s/he stands for human rights. It encourages people to think about the soldiers and settlers who kill Palestinians in cold blood and then live freely. How many Palestinian families have lost loved ones and then have to live with the fact that the murderer remains unpunished?
When Barakat was asked why he chose Rachel Corrie as the focal point for his film he said that there were three reasons: One, eyewitnesses say it was not an accident; Two, when he followed up the story in the United States they did not talk about Corrie; and Three, the U.S. media did not cover her to the extent that they cover missing American children and other murders. “It made me feel that I must do something for this girl”, Barakat said.
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