(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Gaza Surf Club is a kind of feel-good movie about young people in a bleak situation trying to, against all odds, follow the dream of surfing with proper equipment. The film starts with a geopolitical introduction to the area: The Gaza Strip is a closed coastal enclave that is susceptible to attacks and blockade from multiple angles, including from the sea. This is reinforced by an audio page with bombs and news releases about the fighting. Visually, the scene is established where the story is played: Maps point out the area, followed by pictures of the coast and waves hitting the beach. We see pictures of brick blocks and broken houses, and are then introduced to a bunch of enthusiastic surfers.
The cultural and economic differences between Gaza and Hawaii are obvious, and are explicitly juxtaposed in the film.
Three main characters carry the story: veteran Abu Jayab (42), fisherman and surfing instructor who appears rather bitter after being imprisoned in Gaza all his life; Sabah (15), who once excelled as a swimmer and surfer, but who, now that she has become a young woman, is forced to give up her passion; and not least Ibrahim (23), an ambitious surfer who dreams of opening a combined store and meeting place, and wants to travel to Hawaii to learn the best tricks of the game.
From Gaza to Hawaii. The story of these protagonists is told fairly straight forward. Abu Jayab is the oldest and most experienced surfer. He has a small metal shed where he stores his trays. He has lost hope of ever being able to leave Gaza, and while the sea has stopped providing him with fishing, it offers him his only form of escape: surfing. Sabah recalls her time surfing when watching a video made four years earlier with her family. The father, who is proud of his capable daughter, was forced by the Coast Guard to keep her away from the water as she grew older.
But Ibrahim, who combines jobs at a hospital and in a metal workshop with surfing, gets the most attention. He dreams of opening a surf shop, but it is difficult to import surfboards (they are confiscated by Israeli customs), and materials for making and maintaining them are not readily available in Gaza. In addition, it is difficult to join international organizations. Fortunately, Ibrahim has a friend, Matthew, who invites him to Hawaii. After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a visa in Egypt, Ibrahim finally succeeds in Jerusalem. He travels to Hawaii, where he immediately encounters the plethora of goods, surfing equipment and light-skinned women. Matthew takes him on a tour of various surfing courses.
He has lost hope of ever being able to leave Gaza, and while the sea has stopped providing him with fishing, it offers him his only form of escape: surfing.
Outside of the film, it turns out that Matthew is the founder of Explore Corps, a nonprofit organization that organizes outdoor education, vacations and art projects. He brings Ibrahim to an interview with Hawaii's local media platform Think Tech Hawaii. Gaza Surf Club is one of the projects of Explore Corps. In the film, none of this is shown to prevent the documentary from becoming a tool for a US NGO.
He travels to Hawaii, where he immediately encounters the plethora of goods, surfing equipment and light-skinned women.
Daily Life. The strength of the film is the combination of interviews and observations of daily life. These weave together the stories of the protagonists and their relatives and friends, all with their dreams and passions, with a visual style that captures the context: the destruction, the shortcomings. The hopeless situation these people live in is mentioned a few times in the film, but is essentially presented as it is in their lives: as a background taken for granted, and as their daily lives unfold. We get to know each other's dreams and passions through meetings, dinners, work and – of course – surfing. The result is a laidback film with a layered narrative that is anything but random.
Tired of the borders. The cultural and economic differences between Gaza and Hawaii are obvious, and are explicitly juxtaposed in the film. But the differences are never problematic. Instead, show Gaza Surf Club how resilient the people are, and more specifically these people from Gaza. The film is humanistic in the sense that it does not primarily present them as members of society guided by the religious and political forces that prevail, but as individuals who are fully capable of making their own decisions based on the values they believe in. So Sabah's father, who once taught her daughter to swim and wants her to enjoy life and is tired of the boundaries others draw before their daughters, takes her out one last time and lets her surf on her board.