Sunday October 11th, 2015

Letter to Obama


In a refugee camp in the Gaza strip, two boys decide to write a message to the American president Barack Obama through Facebook. In the letter they ask him to help them get an end to the siege of the Gaza strip. The boys invite Barack Obama and his wife to witness the hardship of the people. But they never receive an answer.

Mohanad Salahat, the director of Letter to Obama, came up with the idea when he was working in a workshop together with children aged 10-16. In the workshop they worked together to tell a story. Later on the children got to vote which person they would like to address their problems to. Barack Obama got the most number of votes.

Later in a different workshop the children were given the task through Facebook to write a message to the American president. The letter that was chosen is written by 10 years old Asil Wahbeh and 15 years old Nour Shaban, both of them living in Al Shatti Camp in Gaza.

– I picked that letter because it was written through a child’s perspective, in some other letters it was clear that someone had helped the children to write them. Some of the letters also focused too much on the conflict but the letter Asil and Nour wrote focuses on how the conflict affects their own lives, says Mohanad Salahat.

The boys Qais Mitwali and Saif Ibrahim was chosen from an orphanage for boys aged 10-16, to play the main characters in the film. For two weeks they were trained in acting and to feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Letter to Obama is addressed to an international audience to pay attention to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The idea behind the film is to tell a child’s life story from the Palestinian refugee camp Al Baga’a, where the scenes are shot with a small camera.

– The idea was to shoot in a way that made it look like it was the children themselves who had filmed using a mobile phone or small camera to capture that kind of image, says director Mohanad Salahat.