Friday, July 31, 2009


Rachel Corrie was a young American who spent time in the Gaza Strip in 2003. The Israeli Army was building their now infamous wall on the border between Gaza and Israel and were demolishing the homes of Palestinians near the construction zone. Rachel and other young activists stayed in homes likely to be demolished hoping that the presence of international citizens would slow the destruction and they actively campaigned for it to stop. One fateful day Rachel and her companions were out in the demolition zone, armed with megaphones, trying to halt the Israeli bulldozers' progress when Rachel was crushed to death by one of the bulldozers.

Rachel the film is an exhaustive investigation and exploration of the incident. The director interviews the full range of people involved - Rachel's fellow activists, the Palestinians with whom they stayed, soldiers stationed in the Gaza strip at the time, the bulldozer driver, an Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman, the investigator for the original military enquiry, Rachel's parents and Rachel's university teachers, the pathologist who did the post mortem and I'm sure there were others.

This is not an easy watch and some of the revelations are shocking. I think there were three interviews that made a particular impression on me. The first was with one of Rachel's companions who describes watching her being crushed. The interview was five years after the incident and it was clearly very traumatic still. It reminded me that there was a big personal toll on those who witnessed this incident quite apart from any political and philosophical implications.

The second was with a soldier who was stationed in the Gaza strip at the time. He said that shooting water tanks was a particularly popular activity for soldiers because it looks so pretty through your night vision goggles! He also spoke of the huge numbers of houses they destroyed and admitted to having killed some civilians. It really struck me that since all the soldiers are so young they can take childish pleasure in actions that once they're older they might regret, but too late.

Thirdly the statement from an Israeli Defence force spokeswoman "The IDF doesn't intentionally kill anyone, unless they are terrorists" - which apart from being mind-boggling, struck me as unusual - I don't think I've ever heard a military spokesperson talking about intentional killing before - using the term killing is rare.

Rachel is packed full of jaw-dropping facts. You learn things and come away with more stuff to think about. It's a good film but it isn't fun. It's depressing, probably because its emotionally involving - the interviewees are all very much real people with real opinions, even if you can't fathom why some of them hold such opinions. So you can't go home and dismiss the experience as you would with a bad or boring film.

Anne's rating 4/5

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