The Belle from Gaza

directed by
Yolande Zauberman
76 mins, Documentary, OmeU

German Premiere
Wednesday 3 July 2024
City Kino Wedding
in the presence of Yolande Zauberman

Yolande Zauberman continues to delve into the hidden, nocturnal layers of Israeli society with an intimacy of exceptional intensity

With a photo in hand, Yolande Zauberman walks down Hatnufa Street. The photo is of the Belle of Gaza, a figure rumoured to have walked all the way to these pavements, the site of transsexual prostitution in Tel Aviv The result is a nocturnal quest in a world where grace emerges from the dark and dangerous. This documentary, presented as a Special Screening at Cannes 2024, completes the director’s trilogy initiated with the poignant films Would You Have Sex With an Arab and M.

Zauberman encountered her subjects while shooting her documentary M. In that project, the director investigated sexual abuse in an Orthodox community in Israel.

The inspiration for La Belle de Gaza came from an image that haunted Zauberman. For M, she inadvertently filmed two girls disappearing onto Hatnufa Street. Zauberman, living with someone who speaks Arabic, learned that one of the girls had walked all the way from Gaza. This seemed unbelievable, and Zauberman was determined to find this trans woman from Gaza who had reached Tel Aviv and to understand her vision of the world.

With that whisper of a truth, Zauberman returns to Hatnufa in search of this Palestinian woman. The journey frames La Belle de Gaza, but the question of occupied territory looms large (the doc was filmed entirely before October 7, 2023). Gaza represents an unspeakable topic in the relationship between the viewers, Zauberman and her subjects. The area is a living contradiction of Israel’s professed democratic ideals, and that tension can be felt in the pauses, the silences and the sharp intakes of breath by the interviewees, as well as their occasional refusal to comment. Safety is a constant underlying concern; even if the Belle of Gaza exists, she could never openly admit it.

The women in La Belle de Gaza face multiple layers of oppression. Many are Palestinians living in Israel and are also trans, experiencing dual displacement from both state and family.

With her marvellous use of music and innate talent for empathy, Zauberman uses shadows to craft a luminous work. This film is a heartfelt tribute to women who represent Israel’s cultural and religious mosaic (“we trans women are God’s soldiers to prove that God made me for a reason”), challenging preconceived notions and revealing precious humanity.

“In ancient times, trans women were goddesses and I wanted to give this position back to them”

Yolande Zauberman will be present at the preview screening at City Kino Wedding, Wednesday July 3 at 8:00 pm.

Berlin Film Week Opening Gala
Wednesday 3 July 2024 at 20:00
German Premiere
The Belle from Gaza 
Yolande Zauberman
76 mins, France 2024, Documentary, OmeU
City Kino Wedding (Müllerstraße 74, 13349 Berlin)

The screening will be followed by a Q&A (in English) with Yolande Zauberman