Filmmaker: Alia Arasoughly, 2001
Country of Origin: Palestine
Format: Color, VHS
Running Time: 42 Min
Filmmaker Alia Arasougly weaves together the stories of eight Palestinian women into an intensely stirring and humanizing narrative, exploring what it means to live under Israeli Occupation. Through those eight voices, we learn about the daily struggle that is life under occupation: checkpoints have increased travel time by almost 500 percent and have provided a daily source of humiliation and indignity; the economy is tanking; shops have no business; every day, another person is martyred. Sitting with these women in their kitchens, in their living rooms, in their places of work, we begin to get a view of just how pervasive the occupation is. “Children won’t come to class anymore, because they are scared,” one drama teacher explained. “I don’t blame them.”
The documentary also explores an often untold angle of Palestinian suffering: what does it mean to be, specifically, a woman living under the occupation? These eight women don’t self identify as activists–they are professionals, mothers, and wives. However, just going through daily life has become an act of defiance. Picking olives in the groves that the Hmesh family has nurtured for hundreds of years, for example, now involves violent clashes with the settlers who have expropriated that land. The formal resistance movement, however, seems rather reluctant to include women: “I feel like I don’t have a role for myself,” Dima says. She volunteers with the Muntada organization, working with traumatized children, but feels that her work there is not enough.
Motherhood under the occupation is also, of course, almost unbearable. “I feel like I cannot protect my children,” Nida said. “Every mother deserves to protect her children. Every child deserves to feel safe in the home. My children don’t feel safe in the home.” Nida often tells her children that the shooting outside their home is a wedding celebration, but that doesn’t always quell their fears. She takes us around her house, showing how there is no place where a bullet cannot hit you through one of the windows.
In an almost unwatchable scene, another woman tells the story of her teenage son’s martyrdom.
This Is Not Living does not offer a comprehensive or completely inclusive of womanhood and motherhood under occupation. (It does not, for example, include trans or queer women.) Nonetheless, the film tells eight stories that would likely be recognizable to most Palestinian families: similar experiences are shared across the West Bank and Gaza.
Natasha Markov-Riss, January 21st 2016