September 22, 2018

Film Interview: Into Pandemonium


Vibeke Løkkeberg explains the brutal nature of “Tears of Gaza."


Film Interview: Into Pandemonium

Vibeke Løkkeberg explains the brutal nature of Tears of Gaza to Topanga Messenger film critic, JP Spence.

It’s an understatement to say that Tears of Gaza is hard to watch. Documented during the Israeli bombing of Palestine in Gaza during the winter of 2008, director Vibeke Løkkeberg provides an unflinching look at the sheer malevolence and destruction of war. Those opposed to the film say the documentary is propaganda, but the documentarian uncovers that civilians suffer more than the forces at war. Currently in limited release, Tears of Gaza ranks as one of the best anti-war films in recent memory.

Topanga Messenger: With so many visceral moments, what would you describe as the most intense moment for you?

Vibeke Løkkeberg: Pick one! Really, it was that difficult. The thing about the horrors of war is it’s just that. There were so many horrific moments, really extreme ones I had to leave out, which is saying a lot since the footage is brutal. The point I wanted to make was that the families and children are the ones who really suffer and I feel the film does that.

TM: Why did the Israeli and Egyptian Governments not allow you to enter Gaza?

: Well it was a war zone and the only people who could get through were people from news outlets [i.e. Reuters, The Associated Press]. Fortunately, we met some European doctors who were able to help us with interviews, footage and access and we were able to help them as well.

TM: The Gaza production team: how do you feel about the push and pull with regard to creative direction, considering you didn’t capture all the footage firsthand?

: My job as documentarian is to capture footage, first and foremost, of the story I want to tell — in that civilians are the ultimate victims of war. The Norwegian doctors were essential in that. I would iPhone messages daily and would converse with them as often as possible. I asked for help to get inside Gaza and they were influential in doing that. I ended more angry than anything because I wanted to help more.

TM: The doctors treated a girl named Amira who became one of your interview subjects. How was that experience?

: You know she was very afraid of me. It’s because of what I looked like. I represent the western world, which is very frightening to her. The only reason she spoke with me was because her doctors translated what my intent was and why I was making the film. But she was very traumatized.

TM: How So?

: Well she was offered to come to Europe with the doctors and she declined. She said if she is going to die, she’d rather die with her family.

TM: You stated that you felt that the people of Gaza had the same feelings, desires and dreams as a typical family living in the West. In what ways do you see the correlation?

: Philosophical differences and way of living aside, all families want the same thing, love and peace. War is the complete opposite. The sooner we decide that wars are not the way to solve problems, the sooner we can begin to understand each other better.

TM: How do you feel this film would rank in the annals of antiwar films?

: I’m not really sure where I would put it to be honest. I looked at some great films and the footage from the Vietnam War as inspiration. I originally started this project because I was upset with, not necessarily the lack of coverage of the war but the real victims.