Bethlehem is the world’s most famous little town – home to the majority of Palestine’s Christians. In this personal doc, filmmaker Leila Sansour returns to the hometown she left at 18 to document a year in the life of the city as it becomes encircled by a ring of concrete and steel – the ‘separation wall’ built by Israelis in and around the West Bank to protect its citizens from attack (at eight metres tall the barrier is twice the height of the Berlin Wall). Sansour ends up staying in Bethlehem for seven years, spearheading a campaign to save the city.
Her film is at its most powerful as a study of siege mentality and the suffering of Palestinians. We see men queuing at 3am at a checkpoint for work permits and a farmer whose 70-year-old trees are ripped out of the ground by Israeli forces. Sansour shot most of the footage between 2005 and 2010, before Pope Francis’s controversial offering of prayers at the concrete barrier in May 2014.