Through the story of a five-year-old girl with leukemia named Ahlam, documentary director Reema Essa tells the story of a nation. In her film “My Name is Ahlam,” the little girl is shown talking and singing with the innocence of childhood, yet her little face doesn’t show the fresh blossoming of childhood. Sadly, her swollen head seems smeared pale yellow by her illness, and not a single hair covers her scalp.
Ahlam became the center of her family of eight in the West Bank suburbs of Al Khalil. As a result of her illness, her mother leaves her home, husband and other children to take her daughter in search of treatment, roaming around hospitals looking for medicine and helpful equipment which doesn’t exist in the occupied territories. They spend half a day just moving through Israeli road blocks and using public transportation to get a blood test, and then they must sit and count the days before learning the results.
Essa’s camera followed Ahlam and her mother for two years, reflecting their ordeal and their extraordinary circumstances. Ahlam’s “life” seemed to amount to nothing but a slow theft of her childhood. Initially, Ahlam didn’t get necessary treatment. Why? Because it was not available in Palestinian hospitals. Why? Then, her mother couldn’t be with her while she underwent an operation. Why? Because the Israeli army wouldn’t give her a passage out of her human cage. Why?
By the film’s end we learn – unfortunately, for what feels like the thousandth time – that our lives have little significance. We get born, we get sick and sometimes we heal. We live and we die, while the world stays the same. Life goes on with all its troubles and joys. Some suffer more than others, some less. Some are happy, some sad. But our end is clearly the same.
For a simple blood test, should a child and her mother have to cross Army road blocks? Why?
Physical siege. . . .social siege. . . . economic siege. . . .health siege. . . . mental siege. . . .
I found myself trembling within the walls of my own humanity after this child had my thoughts under siege.