Facing Trauma in Raed Andoni’s “Ghost Hunting”

Raed Andoni’s “Ghost Hunting” is one of the most underrated documentaries out there, and the only reason it’s underrated is because it’s underseen. We have Second Run, the UK-based boutique label, to thank for re-releasing this beautiful work of humanitarian cinema on physical media. In the film, the Palestinian director experiments with re-enactment to allow individuals to come face to face with their traumas. The director invites Palestinians who previously got interrogated in Israeli detention centers and asks them to reconstruct their cells and re-enact their experience. The goal of the experiment allows tormented souls to heal in front of our eyes. In “Ghost Hunting”, the set is akin to a rehabilitation centre; and the director becomes the healer.

At one point, one of the actors/former prisoners asks the director why he’s making this film. “Because, what’s inside you, you beat it, or it beats you”. He’s referring to trauma of course, and how if you don’t face it, you’ll be stuck in the past. When we look at the troublesome chapters of our lives, we must always look back at that time with a new perspective; it’s the only way to grow out of the experience. At first, I thought the film would explore the torture methods used within the detention centers, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the film explore something much deeper.

Andoni seems less interested in the physical torture that people had to go through, and instead shines a light on the inner strength it took to survive the ordeal on a psychological level. Khattab, one of the former detainees, explains how the Israeli soldiers would deny him access to the toilet. The second he realized they were using the pressure of his bodily fluids against him during the interrogation, Khattab intentionally peed his pants and it felt like a trance. “Who cares about the pee? The strength is here”, Khattab says pointing to his head. Another prisoner used humor to withstand the horror. In many ways, “Ghost Hunting” is about psychological resilience and inner transformation, the transformation of suffering into strength, and trauma into rebirth.

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