Q&A with Feras Al-Ajrami – Gaza 101 Filmmaker

[translated from Arabic]

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE


NEWS PROVIDED BY
BBC World Service

Why did you decide to film the work of the PRCS?

I wanted to document what I was witnessing. Many events were just not being told by the media – how these paramedics were living and what their lives were like. At the end of the day, they’re just like other people who are in Gaza, they feel and see what’s happening around them. They’re also always the first people to show up on any scene. They are the first ones to respond to whatever’s happening, whether that be a bombing or something else. I am a first-aider and a filmmaker, so I combined both experiences to document this.

What was it like on the frontlines of the war witnessing casualties?

You see martyred (dead) children, families screaming, fire, blood, all sorts of things. The memory of all of this is quite engraved in my brain, not just my phone or camera. You remember it all after you see it. Sometimes I just stop filming and start helping when I see children and vulnerable people at risk. And sometimes the number of casualties is so high that you just have to help people. Sometimes there are strikes on more than one place at the same time.

In the first weeks of the war, I was in the ambulance, and we were ready to help people, when suddenly the place where we were in Al Awda Hospital was bombed, with a powerful barrage of airstrikes. I have survived death several times while working with medical teams.

It was a great risk to cross between the north and south of Gaza, but I continued my work and documented everything around me with my camera and mobile phone, day and night, despite the difficulties and the tragic scenes that I was witnessing, including massacres, pulling children from under the rubble, and hearing the cries of injured children. All of this was in the absence of proper capabilities to help the paramedics and a lack of communication.

How do the medics find respite while working under heavy conditions for long periods?

There’s no respite. This war is unlike anything else. Maybe sometimes when there are no strikes, when it’s a bit calm, they’d clean the ambulance car, speak to their families and make sure that they were okay.

Logistically, how did you manage filming in a war zone under bombardment?

You have to be ready to film everything but also know when you need to stop. When they targeted the vicinity of Al-Awda hospital, the camera wasn’t next to me, I just started filming on my phone, while we were being shelled. You have to be ready to film all the time. Sometimes I don’t even take off my shoes as you have to be on standby all the time. I used to keep my shoes on for days.

What have you taken away from your experience filming Gaza 101?

I managed to document things nobody else was documenting. Not everyone has access to being in ambulances and being first on the scene. It’s been a really difficult and dangerous experience. When my colleagues and fellow paramedics were killed in northern Gaza, I took pictures of their bodies and pictures of the funeral and their burial. One of the most difficult moments of my life were when I saw my paramedic colleagues, who had been with me just an hour before they were killed. I had been with them and filmed them saving people’s lives after a house was targeted. We were eating together, then I suddenly lost them.

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February 13, 2024 2:00am ET by BBC World Service  

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