The simply titled documentary Gaza Strip premiered in the United States in August of 2002, about a year and a half before the sudden surge in popularity of documentary films, and especially of politically themed documentary films, brought on by the War on Terror, War on Iraq, and American presidential election. The work of filmmaker James Longley, who financed, directed, edited, and co-shot the film, it is a raw glimpse into the lives of the 1,300,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip that is as topical now, with Israeli vows of withdrawal from the area, as it was upon its release. Recommended to fans of documentary cinema for its style and to those interested in its subject for its value as a document.
After watching the film, I contacted James Longley and sent him a list of various questions and observations I had about his film. Graciously and promptly, he replied. The following is our exchange, compiled from several emails:
(I am italicized and Mr. Longley is bolded)
Unlike many of the “documentaries” made since the recent popularity of Michael Moore’s activist film, your film actually documents.
My film was made before the Michael Moore film you are probably talking about. "Gaza Strip" was finished in spring 2002 and shot in 2001.
Unlike Moore, you neither appear in your own film nor project your own opinions onto it.
Well — except that I chose to make a film about that particular subject, which is the most significant way to project your opinion about anything. Just by making a documentary about the Gaza Strip you are already taking a big political step, particularly if you also choose to document only the Palestinians and leave out the supposedly obligatory Israeli viewpoint. (This is weird, don't you think, that films about Palestinians are criticized for leaving out the Israelis, while films about Israelis are never criticized for leaving out the Palestinians ...)
Personally, I don't think that the documentary form is any less subjective than fiction film — only in documentary you are filming things that are actually happening without your having to write a script or pay actors. But in the end, if the film is going to be at all comprehensible to audiences, you are collecting images and words to tell a story. It's just one story out of millions, and the way you tell it is up to you — so documentary is a totally subjective form, really. However, I also don't think that fact prevents documentaries from providing a real sense of the world, of objective reality, of truth and all that. It's just that none of those things can be expressed in a truly objective way by people.