Fishermen go where the fish are. Borders and national boundaries mean little to men whose lives are regulated by tides, currents and wind.
Even in the Middle East.
“Area K: A Political Fishing Documentary” by Nadav Harel and Ramon Bloomberg is an adroit hour-long film that explores a rare area of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, the product, ironically enough, of the attempt of Israeli military authorities to impose borders on the fishermen of Gaza City.
Palestinian fishermen are permitted to work only in an area that consists of the 40-mile-length of the Gaza Strip coastline, extending eight miles out into the Mediterranean. On two of its three sides, this area is bounded by a military no-go zone; its third boundary, the watery equivalent of the Israel-Gaza border, is the eponymous Area K. In recent years, the small sector that the Palestinians are permitted has become fished out, with the result that the single largest breeding ground in the region is Area K, seemingly just out of reach. But the Israeli fisherman of Dugit, a village inside the Gaza Strip, cobbled together an agreement in which they provide the permits necessary for Palestinians to work in Israeli waters and the Palestinians supply manpower and expertise to the Israelis.
Harel and Bloomberg explain this arrangement with a clever use of computer graphics and a series of moving interviews with fishermen on both sides of the divide. The men involved in this cooperative arrangement are mostly fourth- and fifth-generation fishermen, largely apolitical, who find themselves as buffeted by war and diplomacy as they are by sea and wind. Even the one Palestinian interviewed who comes out of a political background (including a five-year stretch in Israeli prisons for undefined terrorist activity) is frank in his willingness to work across old divides, “Once we saw the Jew as our enemy, but today it’s not so clear cut,” he says.
The potential of these new realities is nowhere clearer than in the second half of the film, which takes place after the Al-Aqsa Intifada breaks out, forcing the protagonists to make the difficult choice to continue working together. With the sea and the fish as the true common opponents, it is a logical choice for all of them.
“Area K” will be shown with “Frontiers of Dreams and Fears” at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave. at 2nd Street) through Oct. 9. (212) 505-5181 or www.anthologyfilmarchives.org.