Kids of the Rocket Siren is a short documentary that offers a personal look at the town of Sderot, a small town on the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip. In an community where schools, bus stops, and playgrounds are built to withstand the rockets fired daily over the border, the children who live there all go about their day as if this constant threat is the norm. With Kids of the Rocket Siren, director Daniel Roher interviews these families to get a better picture of what it is like to grow up in Sderot.
At just 19 years of age, director Roher’s technical aptitude for filmmaking is already clear. From the simple but effective homemade introductory title sequence to his tasteful inclusion of archive footage, the film feels organic and subject-appropriate in just the right way. Despite the inherent bias any documentarian brings to their project, Roher’s style gives the impression that he has captured the raw, unadulterated thoughts of the residents of Sderot.
Of course, this honesty can only go so far. Without delving into the complicated politics of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is still easy to see that any movie that shows how the issue has affected one particular group is going to bring with it a sense of partisanship. To his credit, Roher smartly shies away from direct commentary on the politics of the situation. And in fairness, getting footage from inside Gaza isn’t particularly easy or safe (something many investigative journalists can attest to). Still, this bears mentioning when a documentary covers such a divisive issue.
What is much more remarkable than any sort of perceived message Kids of the Rocket Siren may be preaching is how filled with information it is. In the space of roughly 17 1/2 minutes, Roher offers the audience an emotionally detailed picture of what life is like in Sderot. He gives the experience a voice through the anecdotes and memories shared by the families affected by the attacks. In a feature-length film a more personal connection may have been made with one or two of the residents, but for the purposes of this short, Roher’s choices suit the format.
The final few minutes of the short show Sderot community organizers and interviewees speaking wistfully about a day when Palestinians and Israelis might go to school together. I wonder how many of the residents of Sderot actually share this sentiment, but that at least some people who face direct conflict daily are willing to consider the idea of harmony despite their living conditions is a comforting thought. The short ends on a hopeful note, espousing an ideal that so many angry writers, filmmakers, and journalists tend to rule out a priori.
Verdict: Movie Win