In Review

Film review: Eleven Days in May

Harrowing documentary about children killed in Gaza

As most of the world’s attention was diverted by the pandemic last May, the people of Gaza were living through the “bloodiest escalation of hostilities” since 2014, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. This “desperately upsetting” documentary, directed by Britain’s Michael Winterbottom (The Trip, Greed) and the Palestinian filmmaker Mohammed Sawwaf, focuses on the children killed: no fewer than 60 children lost their lives in just 11 days; the overall death toll was at least 243, according to Gaza’s health ministry. In some cases, whole families were “all but wiped out” in a single air strike, “leaving only, in one instance, a pair of grandparents behind”. In other cases, shrapnel “took away a single oldest brother, or a youngest sister, an unborn baby”. The film “doesn’t rage or rant”, but is instead a “litany of losses, gravely scored to Max Richter’s liturgical music”. There is “no way you could watch it unmoved”.

The film’s approach is “direct and unvarnished”, said Wendy Ide in The Observer: a narration by Kate Winslet lists the dead, then the details of their lives are sketched out – “a two-year-old who loved cats; an aspiring astronaut”. Survivors are “assembled to pay tribute; empty beds filmed; possessions collected into makeshift shrines”. The film also includes mortuary shots of children “blown to bits”, said Kevin Maher in The Times. “It’s an 18-certificate horror show, but culled from real life. It’s incendiary material and furiously anti-Israel.” Viewers are given “no context”, and the film contains “no nuance – just the suggestion that ‘Israel’ (whoever that is) is a homicidal maniac. Which, given global events right now, doesn’t seem very constructive.”

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