A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
Film Movement // Unrated // $24.95 // April 16, 2013
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 24, 2013
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Highly Recommended
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A Bottle in the Gaza Sea DVD Review


A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
is one of the best independent films I have seen all year. Released in 2011, the French production addresses the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in a real, profound, and incredibly moving way - with a story that should help to unite people together. This film is remarkably brave, original, and well-made and it is an overlooked gem of world cinema worth sharing with others.

The film's core storytelling revolves around two young people from different backgrounds who are brought together with a long-distance friendship which helps to shape and transform their lives.  Tal (Agathe Bonitzer) is a 17 year old Israeli girl who moved away from France, along with her family, to Jerusalem. She attends school and in a state of dread with regular bombings surrounding her daily life. Her family tries to live as best they can, but the war causes hardship.

Tal refuses to accept that hatred and war somehow must exists between Israelis and Palestinians. She writes a letter filled with her own hope and expresses her feelings that hate is something that should not have to be the only way between Israelis and Palestinians, slips the letter into a bottle, and sends it out to travel across the sea. The bottle finds its way to Gaza, and is read by a young group of Palestinian friends, one of whom is Naim (Mahmud Shalaby), a 20 year old boy who becomes interested in the letter and sends a sarcastic reply to Tal using her mentioned e-mail address.

 

It isn't long before what begins as a sarcastic and uncaring response to a deeply felt letter turns around and becomes a long-distance friendship; a friendship where Tal and Naim grow to care for one another as people. The exchanges become more and more frequent and the discussions range from philosophical to personal and even friendly conversational. At the same time, Naim struggles to accept his friendship with Tal after a horrific moment in a bombing changes his life. Meanwhile, Tal desires to continue their friendship, and doesn't give up on the two of them even despite some fellow naysayers who fail to completely understand where she is coming from: the friendship means a great deal to them both, but can the pair make sense of the world surrounding them and the history of conflict they both disapprove of and desire to change?  

This film is written by Thierry Binisti and Valerie Zenatti, and Binisi directs. The production is a French/Israeli co-production. I am astonished by the filmmaking. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is one of the best films I have seen all year, independent or otherwise. The film takes a difficult subject matter and handles it incredibly well, and it manages to do so by remembering to focus first and foremost on the characters in the story, who are drawn to one another despite established feuds which play no real role in their awareness or knowledge of each other.

The performances were amazing. I was engrossed by the characters and felt as though they were truly becoming close friends. The script worked in perfect unison with the performances as the words would flow seamlessly, beautifully, and transcendently. Agathe Bonitzer and Mahmud Shalaby are exceptional and the film wouldn't work anywhere near the level on which it does without the two of them offering their best with the film.

 

The directing was somewhat reminiscent of a documentary film approach, which makes sense given Binistri's background in making an incredible amount of television documentaries. The approach works remarkably well throughout the film. The artistic style utilized certainly was something that benefited the entire film's approach, which feels authentic and creatively rich.  

I was deeply moved by A Bottle in the Gaza Sea and I found the film to be one which was an undeniably remarkable attempt at making an intelligent, emotionally resonant, and important story into an equally worthwhile film. Based upon a award winning novel written by Valerie Zennat, the film explores the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in a genuine way that should encourage discussion.

The film is one of the best examples around of how a film can explore these kinds of issues in a multicultural approach and be both entertaining and great insight for audiences of all walks in life. The film won the Best Film award at the Festival of Young Filmmakers at Saint Jean De Luz, which is an award it is certainly deserving of, for it is exceptional in virtually every way.  Audiences should embrace cinematic journeys of such worth and need. This is indeed a great cinematic achievement that deserves accolades of praise, both for its exceptional qualities in filmmaking and for the powerful message of love and friendship crossing across all barriers; overcoming immense obstacles and conflicts.


The DVD:


Video:

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is presented by Film Movement on DVD with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the original theatrical exhibition. The picture is an impressive and notable presentation of the film, with good detail and clarity. The film has a filmic look with good grain levels and a notable color palette which complements the whole production. Laurent Brunet offers exceptional cinematography which capably helps enhance everything about the film's intended look.

Audio:

The film is presented with both 2.0 and 5.1 sound mixes. The 5.1 sound mix is nothing that exceptional, but it does offer great ambiance and a slightly more enveloping experience. It actually works best with regards to presenting the music score by Benoit Charest, which is absolutely lovely and dramatically involving. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand.
 


Extras:

The main extra is the selected short film by Film Movement. The short, entitled An Oasis on the Hill, is an exceptional 10 minute long documentary film about an Israeli village in which Jews and Arabs get along together and grow up in a peaceful environment. The waiting list to even possibly move into this village is substantially long, showing a level of demand and interest amongst parents who want to raise children in a peaceful and compassionate environment.

Final Thoughts:

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is one of the best foreign language films to be released this year, and it deserves an audience. The film taps into the conflict of Israeli and Palestinian people by being capable of reminding us that sometimes we tend to forget why our conflicts even began; with elements capable of tearing people apart, but that overlook the basic core value humans share of longing for connection with one another -- and this is precisely why the filmmakers of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea have made such a remarkable film.

Highly Recommended.



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