To me, looking at child prisoners in Israel was a way of looking at the political situation there from a new angle.
To do that meant getting unprecedented access to the Al-Aqsa Brigade and the Israeli military courts where children are held in shackles. Even when we flew out, we didn’t know if we were going to get access or not. But there was no way we were going to secretly film. We could have gone in there posing as charity workers, but that’s not fair on Israel, and is just not the way to do it.
It was about relationship building and reassuring the Israeli authorities. Right up to the 11th hour, we still didn’t know if we were guaranteed access, but we had to reassure them that it would be a thorough, impartial look at how the conflict is affecting the children. The negotiations were in London, and then we went out there to film for three weeks.
I’m used to going undercover, and the difficulty with this was that I had to be completely honest about what I was doing, and that’s why it took so long.
I went on a hostile-environment training course before I went out, and everything I learned I put into practice in the first 20 minutes of filming. We went to the West Bank to film children throwing stones at the armed trucks, which happens every Friday afternoon after prayers. It’s a ridiculous game of cat and mouse: What can a stone do to an armoured truck? But each side provokes the other.
What we didn’t realise was that a number of child prisoners were being released that day.
The crowd of children was unusually large and there was a very heavy IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) presence.
It soon became clear that the IDF didn’t want us to film, and one of the soldiers started firing rubber bullets at us. He fired twice and that was clearly a warning to get out. But we didn’t; we carried on filming and tracked down the kids who had been injured.
You need to play each side up on their own concerns. With the Israelis, I promised I would show why it’s necessary to imprison Palestinian children. With the Palestinians, I had to promise I would show what effect the Israeli occupation was having on their children, and that’s exactly what I did.
Both sides were happy with the result. It’s one of those films where the viewer makes up their own mind.
Interview: MÃ©abh Ritchie