This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 31st July 2011
Precious Life is an unsophisticated, artless documentary, more akin in style to a home video, which begins slowly but builds to become absolutely mesmerising.
A sick Palestinian baby, desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant, is being tended to by Jewish doctors at a hospital in Israel. His Arab parents find themselves caught between the desire to save their son’s life and criticism from their own people that they are being aided by the enemy. (Even the mother is conflicted: “The Israelis do strange things for us.”)
Shlomi Eldar is a prominent Israeli journalist who works to get things in front of a television audience to force change and help people. He publicises the case, an anonymous donor steps in, and the race is then on to find family members whose tissue will match. In the face of ongoing conflict that prevents easy passage between Gaza and Tel Aviv, Eldar shoots the story against the inevitable backdrop of war.
This sounds like heavy stuff, but miraculously Eldar’s tiny film eschews big drama, is scarce with its soundtrack, and simply keeps shooting even when his own assumptions are challenged and his instinct is to switch off and go home. A central conversation about the sanctity of life is confronting and enthralling, and audiences will come away much the richer.