Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Palestine has one major export, a time-sensitive commodity the production of which requires care and attention. It is subject to the attentions of demanding and critical consumers and prey to the difficulties of international commerce even before it falls victim to the difficulties of originating from the middle of a war-zone (or police action or occupation, depending on your side of the fence).

The export in question is the strawberry.

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It's grown for export by Palestinian farmers, all part of a single co-operative, working with and for an Israeli firm, Aggrexco, who market the strawberries across Europe. Millions of tonnes of strawberries are produced, boxed, shipped and sold. Strawberry Fields shows the operation, from seedling to fruit, for about a year, the growing season of 2005-06.

It's an astonishing film, a carefully weighted and non-judgemental portrait of a strange situation. Strawberries are pretty easy to understand. They're grown in gardens up and down the country, and the industrial agricultural process isn't too different. There are poly-tunnels, and there's digging, and there's water. The fresher the better, of course, and that's where the problems start.

The border is sometimes closed. As the growers work and are interviewed tanks and bulldozers and armoured personnel carriers rumble about in the background. Every once in a while shots ring out. In the middle of basic bits of farming, weeding, lifting, surrealism creeps in, and sets up camp, or at least knocks it down to prevent it from being occupied by others. Hamas do a breakfast radio show, interrupted by bulletins warning of Apache helicopters operating in the area. At one point the film crew phone the Israeli Air Force to ask not to be bombed.

At an hour long, Fields is well paced, and sets out its scope and explores it well. It relates a conflict that's personal to many and remote to more to the kitchens and gardens or at least supermarket shelves of European audiences. It suffers a little from its efforts to avoid judgement; viewers aware of the potential for prejudice in documentary from reality shows if nothing else will spot the places where editorial restraint was exercised or perhaps should have been.

That said, there's an honesty to it - beyond the pressures of what one might politely call the security situation, it does not flinch from the expectations of the market, and the demands they place on those involved. If nothing else, Strawberry Fields is a unique view of something oft discussed, but rarely seen in this kind of depth.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2007
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An exploration of strawberry farming in Palestine.

Director: Ayelet Heller

Year: 2006

Runtime: 60 minutes

Country: Israel


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