11 Days in May
In May 2021 Gaza was bombarded with missile strikes by Israel for 11 consecutive days. 60 children were killed in the violence with many more being injured. 11 Days in May is a documentary about those innocents who lost their lives. It’s a memorial to the deceased in which their families talk about what their aspirations were for the future, what they dreamed of and the small quirks that made them who they were. Some wanted to become doctors, some adored cats and most loved nothing more than to play with their siblings and cousins. Meanwhile, the families lay out their belongings, a sombre image of what they have left of their loved ones.
The film opens with news footage to contextualises the violence before director Michael Winterbottom (who created the documentary in conjunction with local filmmaker Mohammed Sawwaf) tells events in chronological order, with Kate Winslet providing the narration and composer Max Richter the soundtrack. Each day is marked with footage of the strikes and a list of those who died. The film then jumps to interviews with the families, intercut with photos and home videos of the deceased.
The presentation is stripped-back and respectful to those involved, which only serves to underscore the raw humanity captured on film. While the story of each death is upsetting to hear, none can compare to watching the interviewees compose themselves before speaking. At one point a small child bursts into tears, overwhelmed by grief for their sibling. At another point, a mother speaks of her difficulty coming to terms with what happened.
Likewise, Winterbottom doesn’t shy away with the bloody and immediate aftermath of the bombings. Photos and videos of the children playing are intercut with images of their bodies, their injuries visible, or loved ones mourning at their graves (the footage was released by the families). These images are shocking and deeply distressing; however, this is the reality these people contend with.
As the account of each day goes by, the limits of the violence and heartache seem endless. 11 Days in May is difficult to watch. Though those who do won’t forget those the documentary memorialises.
11 Days in May is released in select cinemas on 6th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for 11 Days in May here: