A Universal Tragedy By Anne Brunswic

in 8th Perm Flahertiana - International Documentary Film Festival

by Anne Brunswic

As in an oriental tale, This Way Up (Le jardin de Jad) starts in the bright light of Jerusalem, with the far distance Al Aqsa’s golden dome and the complex puzzle of the Old City’s roofs. Once upon a time, there was a frail old man whose kingdom was a small garden. Day and night, strangers were crossing it, on their toes. They came and went with a rocking ladder. And every day, their journey seemed more and more perilous and doomed. The entire world held its breath; soon the door to the garden would be walled, the horizon invisible, life choked.

Documentary films have not been lacking since 2004 in what is a political fact that the Israeli authorities call a ‘Separation Fence’ and the Palestinians ‘Apartheid Wall’. Indeed, this is where one can witness one of the most obvious and shocking rifts dividing our planet. However, Georgi Lazarevski (born 1968) is not interested in lecturing about Middle East history and geopolitics. His story is mainly characterized by its outstanding clarity of vision and deep humanity. Those qualities were already noticeable in his previous film Voyage in G Major.

This backyard belongs to a retirement home under the responsibility of Christian nuns in an Arabic neighborhood of Jerusalem. Notre-Dame des Douleurs, the name says it all. It is inhabited by old Palestinians of all religions whose precarious life only hangs by a thread. This thread could be broken any day because of the completion of the wall: the institution’s employees will soon be unable to come to work, children unable to visit their mothers, the grocery shop will soon close.

Watching the TV news sitting in his wheelchair, Monsieur Thomas still finds the strength to get angry and protest. He is burning with the desire to answer back to Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. In his anger, he appears both noble and powerless. His unfortunate female companions now only find consolation in love songs, or in one last cigarette.

Behind this agonizing society – which still finds the time to argue, sing, kiss and laugh — one can see another one emerging that is modern, but hard as concrete. Just behind the garden, with lorries and cranes, workers and soldiers are busy building the world of tomorrow — a world of a walled-in, living-dead.

Originally trained as a photographer and cameraman at the French Institute Louis Lumière, Georgi Lazarevski shows his mastery as a director through his rigorous choices. Throughout the film he maintains a solid footing. The story unravels in one place, camera angles impose a structured narration. Told from the point of view of the oppressed, those who are about to pass away, this melancholic and bittersweet chronicle succeeds in rising far above everyday politics and news. It provides a universal echo to this tragedy taking place in our backyard. Already awarded in Krakow’s festival, This Way Up received in Perm the Grand Prix.