In 2008, two best friends found themselves trapped in one of the most dangerous places on earth as the only western journalists in the Gaza Strip. The War Around Us captures the collision of two friends and colleagues as they witness and cover one of the most disturbing wars of our time. As missiles shower down on Gaza and unspeakable atrocities emerge the pair is torn by fierce professional rivalry, personal fear and grim humor - with no way out and the whole world watching.
In the winter of 2008, two young journalists found themselves in the middle of what would be the biggest story of both of their careers but what happened during 22 days in that winter changed their lives forever. While the rest of the world relied on their reporting due to a media blockade, Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros risked their lives to tell the stories of those trapped in the middle of war with nowhere to go.
Ayman, a former CNN producer was assigned by Al Jazeera English to head their bureau in the Gaza Strip, which at the time was under an Israeli siege. Sherine, a Jerusalem-based producer for AJE was transitioning to reporter and was asked to go to Gaza for 24-hours to file a story. 24-hours turned into two and a half months.
On December 27, 2008 an onslaught of aerial strikes by the Israeli military began on the Gaza Strip and did not end for 23 days. Ayman and Sherine were the only international broadcast journalists inside Gaza. During the war, the two journalists on the ground in Gaza would recount the horrors of the violence in a way only those on the inside could have witnessed. But war took a toll on Ayman and Sherine as individuals and as colleagues. Differences emerged between Sherine and Ayman that threatened not only their friendship but also the very mission they set out to do at the beginning; cover the war for the whole world to see. Amidst the tensions, the two friends find themselves surrounded by extraordinary life-changing experiences, grim humor and a determination neither one of them realized they had.
The War Around Us is the raw story of Gaza and how two journalists reached the rest of the world from inside one of the most deeply divided and silenced places on the globe.
Documentary ﬁlmmaking is definitely a calling and one that can inspire audiences and take them on an emotional roller coaster. After ﬁnishing my ﬁrst ﬁlm, Occupation101, which highlights the Israeli occupation of disputed Palestinian land, I did not want to do another ﬁlm about the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict because it is so emotionally exhausting. In December 2008, as I and the rest of the world waited for Barack Obama to be inaugurated as President of the United States, another story caught my attention. The day Operation Cast Lead started was a sad day for me. As I watched the war in Gaza unfold on TV and online, I saw the image of a little girl about the age of four that had been killed. Her hair was curly and long, and I broke down and could not deny how much she reminded me of my own daughter. What would I do if my daughter had been killed in a war, if my family was trapped inside a war zone with no way out, and if the world went on without knowing what I had lost? These thoughts plagued me.
Six months later I was speaking with a friend online who was leading the only team of journalists inside Gaza during the war. The media blockade meant that my friend, Ayman Mohyeldin had to tell the world what was going on. I told him that I had been glued to his coverage of the war, and that his colleague Sherine Tadros’ reports were incredibly compelling. My question became “is there something we can do with this?” Is there something that you and Sherine have to say about the war? Their answer was yes. I proposed that Al Jazeera English give me the footage and I would make a ﬁlm about Gaza, but also about two journalists whose story of struggling between the professional and personal was compelling enough. Several months later, we began the brutal hours of interviews in LA recapping what happened before the war, during the war, and how Ayman and Sherine were two years later.
The ﬁlm captures an honest dialogue by two journalists that lived through the war and want to tell others what they witnessed. The War Around Us will visually stimulate audiences with exclusive footage and raw images captured by different devices and in various formats. With 100 hours of footage, mostly from Al Jazeera English, there is never before seen images and footage in this ﬁlm.
Ayman is an Egyptian-American who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Sherine’s family is also from Egypt but she grew up in London. With their different backgrounds, I wanted to explore how both of them saw the war and how different their reports were. In the interviews with Ayman and Sherine, I wanted to capture their different reporting roles, how they coped and responded to being in a war zone, and how both are ordinary people caught in an extraordinary situation. It was important for this ﬁlm to be made because not everyone heard this story. It greatly affected the world as we strive to reconcile our differences, especially Americans who desperately need to understand what continues to drive this conﬂict and why there should be peace.