Ambulance

Mohamed Jabaly

USA 2017, 1h 20min

The sounds of a crack. A baby crying. The picture appears. The hands holding it are unsteady. The breath reveals despair, before a voice exclaims: ‘Oh my God!’ The premise for the rest of the film is set from the start: We will witness what he sees. With the exception of one image, through subjective angling, the documentary is filmed using a first-person perspective.

Palestinian Mohamed Jabaly has, with Ambulance, documented the 51-day long Gaza bombing during the summer of 2014 from the front: the driver’s seat of an ambulance. From day one, Jabaly instinctively reported everything, without revealing to his own family how he spent his days. They would not have allowed him to continue if they had known. Ambulance can be seen as Jabaly’s reason to apply for his Leave to Remain in Norway. The film makes has, ever since his arrival in Norway in 2014, fought to remain, but authorities want differently. Following pressure from the Norwegian film milieu and local environment in Tromsø, Jabaly, who originally was told to leave the country, had his process renewed just before Christmas. This means that he is allowed to remain a little longer, but for how long remains unknown.

The graphics selection formulaically follow the ‘Show, don’t tell’-recipe, and thus Ambulance is efficiently able to evoke our universal emotions.

Vital documentation. Considering how little news on the Gaza conflict that actually emanates from the Palestinian side, and that the vast amount of the sources used by Norwegian media is the Israeli military, there is even greater reason to be interested in Jabaly’s report.  Ambulance has also received a lot of international attention. It was screened at Amsterdam’s IDFA festival, where it formed part of the main competition, and was also recently aired on NRK.  At a time when NRK’s silence is total, to quote Torstein Dahle, is may now be time to make space for such a subjective submission from the weaker part.

The absurdity of war. In a second, our eyes are in the middle of the war. The graphics selection formulaically follow theShow, don’t tell’-recipe, and thus Ambulance is efficiently able to evoke our universal emotions. The explicitly rhetorical notions create a shock effect whilst the deeply personal characteristics fill the film with pathos. This way, the rhetorical evidence is exploited to the max. The goal is simple: that we as spectators are to acknowledge the same feeling, regardless of where we are – whether in safe Norway or in i godforsaken Gaza. A prolonged flurry of nightmarish images hit our faces. We arrive in the midst of it all, leaving scarce need for a clear classic dramatic development – reality rarely plays out like that anyway.

The many dark parts are sometimes balanced out. As in the depiction a day in the life of ambulance personnel – which in itself is both interesting and at times completely absurd. Their black humour is liberating.  Single scenes evoke ambiguous emotions which support the surreal reality. Like the one where the jam-packed ambulance is en route to the hospital, and the ambulance man at the back is ambushed by various people nagging him to give them a check-up. The man on the stretcher pulls down drawers whilst the scene is crosscut to the ambulance driver who constantly shouts into camera about the importance of first picking up those most in need.

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