One Minute screens in Shorts Programme 2 (Time)

One Minute, a short film directed by Dina Naser, screened last night as part of the shorts programme at the 8th Arabic Film Festival. The film gives a brief window into the life of a woman living with a young baby in the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood of Gaza in 2014. The electricity in the house stops working and the sound of distant explosions reach her ears. Her mobile phone is the her only source of information about what is happening outside. Suddenly she receives a bluntly-worded SMS from the Israeli security services informing her that the whole area will be bombed in just 5 minutes.

Dina Naser, the director of One Minute was present at the screening. She explained that the story wasn’t one she had experienced personally. She was in Jordan in 2014 when the attacks happened – she recalled feeling powerless as she watched the news reports on TV. Later on she learned more about how the attack happened and tried to imagine how she would react if she were in the same situation.

One person in the audience pointed out that the film was an especially sonic experience: many shots were obscured by darkness and a lot of the story was told through sound. Dina Naser said that she originally had the idea for a film school project called Sound Before Images. The goal was to create a film where sound was more important to the its narrative and construction than the images. The idea of someone trapped in their darkened house, only able to grasp the danger they are in by listening or making phone calls, was an ideal fit for this project.

Another audience member asked how the director had approached the task of making such a powerful film with such a short run time. She said that the film encompasses a few minutes where the characters’ lives will change forever. The events in the film are also closely based on reality. The power was cut out in that part of Gaza because a nearby electricity substation was deliberately bombed. The warning about the impending bombing was really sent via SMS just minutes before it began. The film depicts its main character at a pivotal moment in a situation that was dangerous and dramatic in reality, but also part of a wider story. By joining the story as it nears its conclusion, the film is powerful despite its short runtime.

Someone else asked about the size of Gaza and whether it was even theoretically possible to get to a safe place in 5 minutes. Dina Naser said that Gaza is densely populated and other parts were also under attack at the same time. There was no way someone who saw the warning could guarantee their safety. She said they also fired what they call a ’30 second warning rocket’ before bombarding the town. Even before the 5 minute warning period is up, there is still a huge risk in moving around the area.