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‘Running:’ A haunting video on life in Gaza by Eslam Saqqa

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A friend sent me this haunting video “This part of my life is called: Running!”, a compilation of clips from news media taken during this summer’s 51 days of slaughter and destruction in Gaza. While the video serves as a documentation, Palestinian filmmaker Eslam Saqqa’s artistic endeavor leaves the viewer on edge, fearful, remorseful and uncomfortable. A gripping, suspensefully-woven drama in 3:56 seconds.

I contacted Saqqa 23, living in Ramallah, to asked him a few questions about his video.

AR: I am interested in how you came about making the film, was it on your own initiative?

ES: First it was too much blood and too many body parts scenes in the media, too much of these photos make people care less, so I figured that I should make them care again. After that I continued collecting videos as I was doing from the beginning of the war.

AR: Tell me how did you feel being so far away seeing this footage, it appears to be a work from the heart.

ES: The main two things that can make me cry was seeing photos of martyrs before they die and second was watching people run for their lives (sometimes just before they die).

Running all over the world is something that people do to keep healthy, in Gaza people were running to keep their lives. I think that the war can make us (the people who belong to Gaza but not living there) more productive.

AR: When you say “people who belong to Gaza but not living there”, do you mean speaking as a Palestinian who is not there, or are you or your family from Gaza?

ES: I am speaking about any Palestinian who watched the war from the TV. And yes, my family and I are from Gaza, but I’m in Ramallah now since last February and my family is in Egypt. I have one brother who still lives in Gaza and he is OK thanks God.

AR: The idea of war making one more productive, or inspiring you to produce, could you please elaborate on that? Do you mean impulsively?

ES: I meant that it makes us want to do anything to help by.. and since we have time, relative safety and electricity, then we can do something. If we were there then we can’t write articles or make videos or anything, we would just wait for the next bomb.. wondering where it will explode and who will die.

AR: What is the music, it is so familiar but I don’t know from where. The piano opening – how did you choose it and at what stage in the process? Can you tell me about your relationship/history with that piece of music.

ES: The piece is called Summer 78 by Yann Tiersen.  I first heard it in a movie called Goodbye Lenin. It’s a black-comedy film, and the music was just amazing. That’s why I used this piece, it makes us sad in a very strange way and that’s what we should feel when we talk about Gaza. I love this music .. and I knew that I will use it one day.. but I didn’t know how.. and here we are! I basically choose the music then I make the video based on it.  And the same thing when I write articles, I choose the title first!

AR: Oh, you’re a journalist?

ES: Haha no no, I am not a journalist, I just love writing about life and films etc.  I write for two Lebanese newspapers (Assafir , Al-Akhbar).

AR:  Your film is a very powerful artistically. So you chose the music first, and did you also do that with “from Gaza with love” the video you shot with Lutfi Abu-Ghazaleh? Did the music inspire the film?

ES: No that was different. It was my first time to hold a camera and we just walked into the streets to shoot anything.. when I came back I made this video with the scenes that I loved the most so I can delete the rest.. I didn’t have enough space :D

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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28 Responses

  1. just on September 2, 2014, 10:57 am

    a stark contrast between the 2 films, and yet in both there is the sameness of people trying to live.

    the first clearly displays terrorism by the Occupiers. both are remarkable as captured by Eslam Saqqa. he certainly has a gift.

    thanks Annie.

    • annie on September 2, 2014, 1:17 pm

      just, i about flipped when i ran into from gaza w/love doing research for this video. i ran into it on his youtube video feed and absolutely knew immediately i wanted to feature it in the article because of the emotional/artistic quality. and i was overwhelmed with his answer (“first time to hold a camera and we just walked into the streets to shoot anything”). i have no idea if i took him by surprise asking him about that film, because very few people have ever viewed it (i think 40 or something on youtube) but the extraordinary talent was right there at the very beginning. and editing is a real skill, an important skill (my son is a film editor so of course i appreciate the talent) he’s clearly very good at it.

      plus, i love piano. i also ask eslam if he was a musician and he replied no, but that he had good taste in music and then one of his smiles. i didn’t include that in the final edit tho.

      • just on September 2, 2014, 1:43 pm

        ” and then one of his smiles.”

        magic. You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had no formal training in the arts that he is gifted in! He’s a Palestinian after all– strong, smart, and always a celebrant of life!

        I went back to my cache of bookmarked articles wrt this latest massacre and “running” was always mentioned.

        Eslam compiled a masterpiece in that very short film.

        (Interesting too, is that the footage was all from RT and various ME sources…not from the US/UK etc….)

        thanks very much Annie!

  2. justicewillprevail on September 2, 2014, 11:28 am

    Really good. I love how with minimal resources Eslam has fashioned an eloquent statement without any words needed. The two films really go together, a kind of Hope and Despair intertwined. Running captures the experience of Palestinians under siege, always fleeing, nervously looking over their shoulder, being driven to who knows where – the parallels should be obvious to anybody, From Gaza with Love is the flip side, the yearning for simple pleasure in living, undisturbed, by the sea at home in Gaza. Eslam, I hope you keep making films, maybe go to film school and develop your craft, you have a good eye and ear!

    • annie on September 2, 2014, 1:21 pm

      jwp, although i didn’t think to ask eslam about his education, i assumed he studied film after reviewing his work. he’s made other films btw, this one (also partnering w/Lutfi Abu-Ghazaleh) has gotten over 40,000 views on youtube, but unfortunately there’s no subtitles. there are some excellent scenes in it.

      • justicewillprevail on September 2, 2014, 3:33 pm

        Ah, ok, didn’t mean to patronise him. It was the mention of the first time he had picked up the camera made me think he was self-educated, and these were his first two films. Looking at this other one, he clearly knows what he is doing, I like the way he mixes footage and genres, it is very fluid and creative. Would love to have the subtitles. He is a very good editor too. Keep them coming, Eslam, I think you have a bright future.

    • eslamsq on September 3, 2014, 8:23 am

      Thank you. your words are so important to me, by the way I studied Electrical Engineering, but I like making films, so I tried to read and practice.

      • seafoid on September 3, 2014, 4:14 pm

        Great stuff, Eslam. Keep it going.

      • annie on September 3, 2014, 7:20 pm

        eslam! what a surprise to see you here, welcome. ;)

      • just on September 3, 2014, 7:47 pm

        Your eyes and your ears and all of your senses are truly gifted, Eslam!

        What a pleasure that you came here so we can thank you and get to know you even better in person.

        (I love your avatar!)

    • annie on September 8, 2014, 12:09 am

      jwp, reviewing this thread again i realize i didn’t acknowledge any part of what you wrote except the end. but all that you said, this is perfectly describes how i felt about how the films compliment each other and the ‘flip side’. i couldn’t have said it better or even as well. thanks so much for your comment. it’s exactly what i was striving to reveal.

  3. Refaat on September 2, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Eslam is very promising talent. I wish him all the best

    • just on September 2, 2014, 4:23 pm

      Hi Refaat! So good to hear from you. I hope that all is well with you.

      • Refaat on September 3, 2014, 6:07 pm

        Thank you very much, Just.
        I am fine thank you for asking…

    • annie on September 2, 2014, 7:13 pm

      refaat, thank you so much for turning me on to this video and introducing me to eslam. much appreciated.

  4. Kathryn on September 2, 2014, 4:29 pm

    On the website The Gaza Map you can virtually stand in any of 20 sites in Gaza from Rafah in the south to Beit Hanoun in the north and see a 360-degree view of the destruction all around.

    Short of being in Gaza it is an effective way to get a sense of the scale of devastation Israeli bombing has caused.

  5. just on September 2, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Surprise! The Wapo does a story on the Abu Khdeir family:

    JERUSALEM — For many years, an old and respected Palestinian clan, the Abu Khieder family, has welcomed their American cousins to spend summers in East Jerusalem, greet their elders, learn Arabic, maybe even find a spouse.

    But the murder of three Jewish Israeli students in the West Bank this summer — and the alleged revenge killing of Mohammad Abu Khieder, a teenager burned alive by Jewish extremists — upended the tradition and engulfed the established middle-class family in riots, beatings and arrests.

    Family members say that as many as 30 members of the Abu Khieder clan have been arrested by Israeli security forces in recent weeks, including a dentist who provided emergency medical care during one violent protest and an uncle who hosted a Tampa teenager whose beating drew international outcry. As many as 15 members of the family remain jailed.

    The protests — launched in July after the killing of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khieder — have calmed. But news that an American citizen is among the Abu Khieder family members still jailed has drawn high-level U.S. scrutiny of the treatment of the East Jerusalem clan, whose American cousins live across the United States and work everywhere from Hollywood to the White House.


    Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he could not provide specifics on the arrests.

    “I don’t have any idea on the numbers or statistics,” he said. “A number of organizations might be investigating. In terms of the investigation — who, when, what — I don’t have any further details. No idea.”

    The concern has united a family spread from Orlando to Sacramento with deep American roots. Some members have served in the U.S. military from World War I to Iraq, including a U.S. Army sergeant who recently helped evacuate U.S. citizens from Baghdad……..

    Wearing a keffiyeh is apparently not ok according to Mickey.

    I’ll listen to this guy anyway:

  6. elephantine on September 2, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Can’t watch the first video. I get: ‘This video is not available in your country’. That sucks.

    Second video is fine.

    • annie on September 2, 2014, 7:26 pm

      sorry about that , i think it may be up on vimeo soon elephantine, so keep a look out for it.

    • eslamsq on September 4, 2014, 4:36 am

      Sorry about that, here is a vimeo link:

      • annie on September 4, 2014, 5:48 am

        ;) thank you eslam.

      • elephantine on September 12, 2014, 3:36 am

        Sorry, I’m late seeing this reply. Thank you for the vimeo link, I’ll go watch it now :)

  7. DICKERSON3870 on September 2, 2014, 8:10 pm

    RE: “The [musical] piece is called Summer 78 by Yann Tiersen. I first heard it in a movie called Goodbye Lenin. It’s a black-comedy film, and the music was just amazing.” – Eslam Saqqa

    MY COMMENT: A very clever, excellent German comedy.

    Good Bye, Lenin! 2003 R 121 minutes
    Netflix’s best guess for me: 4.7 stars
    I rated this movie: 5.0
    Average of 389293 ratings: 3.8 stars
    Alex’s mother falls into a coma just as the Berlin Wall is about to come down. But when she wakes up months later, she’s too weak to withstand shock — so Alex goes to great lengths to keep the truth about her country’s reform a secret.
    Cast: Daniel Brühl, Katrin Sass, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer, Michael Gwisdek, Burghart Klaussner
    Director: Wolfgang Becker
    Genres: Comedy, Foreign Comedies, Political Comedies, German Language, Germany
    Language: German (English subtitles)
    This movie is: Emotional
    Netflix format: DVD
    Netflix Listing –
    Internet Movie Database (Rating: 7.8/10 – ‎97,576 votes) –
    Goodbye Lenin! [2003] – Trailer [VIDEO, 02:08] –
    GOOD BYE LENIN full movie (english subtitles) [VIDEO, 2:01:10] –
    Good bye, Lenin! – Full Soundtrack [VIDEO, 39:01] –
    Goodbye Lenin – Summer 78 by Yann Tiersen [VIDEO, 03:56] –

  8. just on September 2, 2014, 11:08 pm

    Bradley Burston:

    “This year, we’re starting from scratch, Lord. It’s almost Rosh Hashanah, and You don’t know me anymore. Not after Gaza.

    I thought things were bad a year ago. And the year before that. Turns out, I didn’t know a thing.

    More than anything, I still need to know what actually happened in the war this summer. And, despite my best instincts, I still don’t really want to know.

    This morning I took down the machzor, looking for some form of hope in the Rosh Hashanah service. This is what the prayer book opened to: What is read, and what is repeated, before the ram’s horn is blown for the first time.


    I do know that all of this could have been avoided. But it wasn’t. And we are all responsible.

    I do know that all this could have stopped sooner, and these children left alive. But it wasn’t. And they weren’t. And we are all responsible.

    Tuv Ta’am VaDa’at Lam’Deini, Ki BaMitzvotecha He’emanti – Teach me good judgment and knowledge, teach me to be sensible and fair and reasonable and understanding, because I was once, I have been, a believer in your commandments.

    This year, we read aloud the name of Do’aa Mustafa Al Mahmoud, beloved of her family, four years old, child of God, descendant of Abraham, killed in Rafah. May her blessed memory be, in time, for peace.

    Wherever we find ourselves this Rosh Hashanah, in whatever synagogue or open field or home we happen to be, an additional 450 children will be sitting beside us, uninvited. They will behave themselves. They will make not a sound. They will neither squirm nor feel restless. But we will.

    They were alive last year, and now they are dead. And we are all responsible. ”

    Bits of realization are filtering through.

    • seafoid on September 3, 2014, 4:17 pm

      ” I don’t want this article to be yet another empty debate about the occupation. I am talking in a practical and sober language. I am trying to be realistic”

      A lot of Burston’s stuff is empty debate about the occupation. It’s not going to stop what goes on in Israel’s schools or the rate of development of An Nakba al yahudi.

      • just on September 3, 2014, 7:51 pm

        Righty-o seafoid.

        I was a bit taken aback when I read his column this morning, though.

  9. seafoid on September 4, 2014, 3:29 am

    I didn’t mean to be snarky, Just, but Burston does this a lot of the time. He writes about Israel is religious terms and it is well written and everything but essentially empty.

    Here is another one

    “God of Abraham, and of Iran, and of Aleppo, on this, the dawn of Rosh Hashanah, a new year, we say these words to leave an old year behind, Tichleh Shanah V’kil’loteha: May this year finally end, and with it, all of its curses.
    Every year, we make the same wish. And every year, the tragic colors of that year make the substance of the wish entirely different.
    This year, for example. For Israelis, a year of feeling caught in the cross-hairs of one potential genocide, and helpless in the face of an actual genocide being practiced just to the north.
    But there’s more. Much more. The curses we have brought on ourselves.
    In Israel, this has been a year of shocking expressions of hatred and acts of terror, of Jews against non-Jews. And in all too many of these, though the victims were innocents, the assailants believed themselves to be defending a godly purpose, or acting according to a wholly worthy principle.
    As this Rosh Hashanah nears, this season of moral bookkeeping, of human debt, of the foreclosure of conscience, many of the perpetrators seem to see no need to ask forgiveness. Perhaps worse, some may believe that asking forgiveness of their non-Jewish victims is wrong, a blasphemous kowtow, a betrayal of the faith.
    All of which makes this year one in which we, as Jews, will need to ask forgiveness on behalf of those who will not ask.
    God of all of us, you may well be as sick of this year as we are. May we, before this New Year begins, before we finish the blessing, ask the forgiveness of all of Your children whom we have harmed. ”

    And it has nothing to do with “God of all of us”. It’s a militaristic system. They educate the kids to hate and they run a war every couple of years with 90% approval.

    He can also turn around and diss this site as well when he fancies it. He acknowledges the dysfunction in Israel (up to a point) but he won’t tolerate deeper criticism.

    He didn’t go out on a limb like Gideon Levy during the last massacres. He sticks to the religious mumbo jumbo when he wants to say something mildly dissenting.

    It’s a very strange parameterization. Meanwhile Israel continues to deteriorate.

    Carlin said “things will never ever be fixed”. And in Israel that means Zionism will die. That is why Alpher is leaving. Why Sayed Kashua left.

  10. anoXmous on August 4, 2016, 12:38 pm

    Eslam is very promising talent. I wish him all the best

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