Erasmus in Gaza: Riccardo’s extraordinary experience becomes a film – iO Donna
R.iccardo is a medical graduate from the University of Siena, he leads a student life, he has fun. When his friends find out that he will be leaving for Erasmus in the Gaza Strip, they can’t believe him. But how, right there? Instead Yes. Despite a thousand difficulties, the project goes through and Riccardo, overcoming meticulous checks, barbed wire and walls, manages to enter Gaza. And he is the first Erasmus student to do so. He will stay there for the whole period. He will learn to be a doctor, he will discover a reality – human above all – that he did not imagine. His experience is told in a documentary, Erasmus in Gaza, distributed by FeltrinelliRealCinema and winner of the Young Jury Awards at DocBarcelona, che will be presented in national preview at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna on 11 June.
Engaging, fast, dramatic in content but dry in form, the documentary manages to make people laugh and movewithout dwelling on pain and without leaving room for ideologies: Riccardo is a student like many others, with the dream of being a doctor and in particular an emergency surgeon, and a great admiration for Gino Strada. He wants to learn on the ground because, as he tells his Palestinian colleagues, in Italy medical students are not allowed to approach the sick. He has no prejudices, he is not deployed; he just wants to gain experience, the goal is formative and humanitarian.
“Gaza is in a situation of total abandonment and isolation, there are hardly any more international humanitarian associations, and when they do, they work on short-term projects and leave, ”says Chiara Avesani, who together with Matteo Delbò directed the documentary. «Only ACS continues to work on it, especially thanks to Meri Calvelli who acted as a bridge between the University of Siena, the European Commission and the Islamic University of Gaza. Bringing a Western boy to Gaza is a way to create a relationship, to generate hope. The young people there have seen nothing beyond their world, along a distance that is similar to that between Rome and Fiumicino ».
When Riccardo arrives, the situation in Gaza is relatively calm. He is hosted by a middle-class, cultured family, and in particular he befriends Adam, a young lawyer who would like to get to know Europe but cannot obtain a visa to leave (today he works for UNHCR, but he remained there). The house is welcoming, bright, as is the welcoming Islamic university, where Riccardo is entrusted to the best student of the course, Sadi, who manages to keep an ironic look on the world and on himself, despite obvious problems of obesity. The third important person for Riccardo is Jumana, an extraordinary young woman who is very active in advocating the cause of her people, courageous – her job is to take journalists to the border, where the clashes take place – and passionate about football. Thanks to Jumana, Riccardo manages to enter the emergency room of a hospital near the border, where will have the opportunity to treat the children injured by Israeli firearms.
Thanks to his friends, Riccardo is also able to overcome the shock of the bombs on the city: “Despite having lived in Gaza in a period considered quiet, you can clearly see in the film how normal life goes on under the bombings, there are at least 3- 4 per month », continues the director. “It is psychological warfare: you may survive, but you always risk dyingand in any case your neighbors, your friends die ». The interiors of the houses are well kept, elegant; the outside is a pile of rubble.
Yet life goes on. Riccardo, back from Erasmus, has now graduated and is specializing in the emergency room of the Venice hospital. In the future, he would like to work at the front, perhaps with Emergency or Doctors Without Borders. Adam failed to leave, Sadi is a brilliant doctor, Jumana got married to a friend of Adam. Unfortunately, Covid has blocked the exchange projects. “Some European universities have reopened to students from Gaza, while there have been no other European students in the Strip. Yet their presence could be important. Because relationships, exchanges, comparisons help to live. Especially in Gaza“.
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