Screencap from the trailer for the film, April 13, 2018 – YouTube/TIFF Trailers.
CAIRO – 13 April 2018: The 2016 German/Arabic documentary "Gaza Surf Club" will be screening at the Goethe Institute in Cairo on April 15.
Directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine, this documentary arose from an interest in documenting the youth culture of Gaza, evolving to focus on a specific subculture who has found an interesting niche, enabling them some sense of freedom in harsh and oppressive conditions. They are the surfers of the Gaza Strip, young adults who have taken to the sea, finding a sense of joy that just doesn't come to them in their normal lives under occupation.
The documentary focuses on three different people across a period of several years, following three different people who each have a passion for surfing. The Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas and under constant siege from Israeli forces isn't somewhere anyone would expect to find dedicated surfers, and yet these three have defied all odds to pursue their love of the waves. They are the Gaza Surf Club, part of an organization founded by the USA non-profit organization "Explore Corps" in 2008.
One of the film's central characters is 15-year-old Sabah Abu Ghanem. When she was younger, she learned how to surf from her father, but as she grew older Hamas’ conservative rule began to crack down on enforcing religious law, forcing her into wearing a hijab and covering much of her skin. This has proven to be a huge obstacle in Ghanem's efforts to pursue her love of surfing, though she manages to find ways to surf even under the oppressive rule she lives in, inspiring other young girls to pursue their dreams as well.
The oldest of the film's subjects is Abu Jayab, a 42-year-old man who has managed to import surfboards into the Gaza Strip despite severe restrictions and serves as a teacher to those interested in learning the sport.
Then there is Ibrahim, who takes up most of the film's focus. At 23, young Ibrahim has his whole life ahead of him, and so rather than waste it away in the war-torn Gaza Strip he plans to move to Hawaii. As he struggles to secure a visa and finally, freedom, Ibrahim finally gets what he wants and flies to Hawaii, leaving behind the Gaza Strip for the green paradise of Hawaii.
"Gaza Surf Club" has been nominated for around 7 awards, including the People's Choice Award at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.