The Do Gooders
Thursday 10th October, 3.30pm – BFI Southbank, NFT
Saturday 12th October, 3.30pm – Curzon Mayfair, Screen 1
A deeply personal look at the Palestinian situation and the actual impact of foreign aid on the area, The Do Gooders is both produced and directed by Chloe Ruthven. The film is shot by hand as she explores the various facets of aid: giggling student volunteers on gap years instructing disinterested men how to weed gardens, USAID and proactive campaigners who participate in a territorial protest march, knowingly risking being shot as they give their all to the cause.
The documentary, however, swiftly takes a turn from a moderately unbiased look at the effect of foreign aid to an intimate narration of Ruthven and a native Palestinian woman, Lubta, desperately trying to understand each other. Ruthven seeks Lubta’s help as a guide and translator, driven to exploring the issue by the involvement of her grandparents as hands-on aid workers four decades ago. Lubta’s vehement reaction to filming and international aid in general drags into question the morality of outside involvement – the constant contrasts throughout the documentary starkly show the lack of any real understanding of anyone not native to the split country. “I cry for you,” a grinning woman says to a man who carries a handgun on his person at all times due to his being wanted by the Israelis. The inanely grinning Westerners in the background of shots snatched outside a cinema in the midst of what is essentially a primped warzone slam home what Lubta says all the way through: “Don’t impose your white camera upon the Palestinian people.”
The onscreen appearance of Ruthven later on in the film is a powerful indication of her increasing personal involvement in the mentality of the people who are being so let down by the so-called aid. The Do Gooders swings heavily towards bias and is an extremely subjective analysis, but it illustrates poignantly the lack of understanding between cultures and the fact that sometimes “help” is really not that at all. All is in the perception, and this melding of political complexity and personal intensity delivers a look at the human situation in a way that is tragically often overlooked completely.
The Do Gooders is part of the documentary competition at the 57th London Film Festival.
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Watch the trailer for The Do Gooders here: