This one-hour journalistic exploration by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Shelley Saywell takes the viewer beyond the headlines and into the daunting, determined minds and hearts of Hamas, a movement formed in 1987 with one declared aim – to destroy the hard-won New State of Israel through Jihad: through applied resistance to Israel’s occupation of what Palestinians perceived – and perceive – as their ancestral land.

Saywell and her small, two-person crew spent many months securing unprecedented access to not only the current leaders of Hamas, but also to one-on-one interviews with insightful, knowledgeable Israelis and Palestinians not often heard from.

A crucially important resource was consultant Olivia Ward, a veteran Toronto Star journalist whose intimate knowledge of, and credibility within, the region proved invaluable. Hamas: Behind the Mask captures Hamas at a transformative moment in its relatively short history, when in process of shifting from an internationally – condemned terrorist organization that has claimed many Israeli lives to a legitimate contender for popular political status on that same world stage.

In Saywell’s Behind the Mask there are no clearly identifiable monsters: only competing claimants to a harshly, passionately contested strip of land. Viewers may find themselves shedding tears for all those claimants, here: both hopeful Jewish Israelis who have seen those hopes of peace and security in the promised land dashed, and Palestinians who feel marginalized, disenfranchised and betrayed.

Watch excerpt here:


BISHARI Film Productions Inc. 1999© • 56 mins. 
Middle Eastern Studies, Women’s Studies, Global Issues, Human Rights, Islam

Terrorism, Middle East, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Gaza, targeted assassinations, refugees, militants, suicide bombers, leadership, Khalid Meshal, rockets, settlements, Bombing, intifadah, Hamas as charity, Hamas as political party.