Born without an immune system, four-month-old Palestinian boy Mohammad Abu Mustaffa will die without a bone marrow transplant – a procedure that can only be done in an Israeli hospital. In the race to save a child, there are no borders.
Directed by Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar and produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze'evi, the timely documentary PRECIOUS LIFE received the 2010 Ophir Award (the Israeli Academy Award®) for Best Documentary.
Set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, PRECIOUS LIFE is a powerful appeal for peace, exploring the challenges and prejudices that must be overcome when officials from conflicting nations attempt to work together for a noble cause.
Responding to a desperate plea for help from Dr. Raz Sommech, journalist Shlomi Eldar begins documenting the story of Mohammad Abu Mustaffa. With camera in hand, he enters Mohammad’s double-isolation room at Israel’s Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he meets the child and his mother Raida.
After Eldar’s first report on Mohammad airs, an anonymous donor offers to pay the $50,000 required for treatment, and the search for a matching bone marrow donor begins. While none of his immediate family members are a match, there may be one among his cousins, who live on the other side of the blockade in Gaza. Tests confirm that two of Mohammad’s cousins are a match, but they are initially prevented from crossing into Israel because a car bomb has exploded near the checkpoint. Three days later, Mohammad’s cousin Saussan is allowed to enter Israel.
Though the operation goes smoothly, doctors will not know for months whether Mohammad’s body will accept the marrow graft. In the meantime, Mohammad’s mother, Raida, struggles to address both her desperate desire to protect her son and the harsh criticism from within her Gazan community. Some believe that accepting help from Jewish doctors, reporters and financial donors marks an affront to their people. To complicate matters further, in a debate over who should “own” Jerusalem, Raida tells Eldar that she would let Mohammad grow up to be a “shahid” (martyr) for the sake of Jerusalem. Although she later softens her stance, Eldar is devastated by her statement and must grapple with the moral dilemma of saving a child who may someday be encouraged to sacrifice his life to kill Israelis.
After the family receives the news that Mohammad’s immune levels are good, he returns home. But three months later, just after war breaks out in Gaza, his condition deteriorates, leaving Mohammad in desperate need of further medical attention amidst escalating violence.
He is only allowed back to Israel when his life is in critical danger. After a successful operation, Mohammad celebrates his first birthday, happy and healthy.
Eldar, who witnessed extensive bloodshed as a war correspondent on the Gaza strip, indicts the region’s violent status quo. While deeply controversial – particularly in Israel, where the documentary premiered at last year’s Jerusalem Film Festival – the film has won acclaim for its raw depiction of courage and the fight for the life of a child, regardless of religion and politics.
An official selection of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2010 Telluride Film Festival, PRECIOUS LIFE was hailed as “enthralling” by the Wall Street Journal, and “remarkable,” by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, while the Hollywood Reporter observed, “The film has as much tension as a good thriller and more honest emotion than most Hollywood tear-jerkers. And it's suffused with moral intelligence.”
PRECIOUS LIFE was directed by Shlomi Eldar; produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze’evi; edited by Dror Reshef; original score by Yehuda Poliker.