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Gaza youth prescribe laughter to ailing society

‘Bas Ya Zalama’ show tackles the hardships of life in Gaza from a position of humour

Image Credit: Courtesy: Facebook
Thaer Munir with his troupe who launched the comedy show Bas Ya Zalama. The show has started to gain regional recognition.
Gulf News

Gaza: Palestinians living in Gaza endure an array of hardships ranging from crippling unemployment, poverty and power outages.

Amid the grim situation, more people have turned to comedy to vent their frustrations.

One comedy show called ‘Bas Ya Zalama’ has started to gain regional recognition after the small enterprise launched by five friends has attracted a loyal following.

The show, which translated into English means ‘Stop it, man!’ began in 2012, tackles the hardships of life in Gaza from a position of humour.

“We chose this name Bas Ya Zalama because it is a common phrase in the Strip, used when people want to get attention of the others,” Mahmoud, one of the group members, tells Gulf News.

Their videos range from mocking some Palestinian slang expressions to people’s excessive habit of taking of selfies.

Sometimes their videos extend to the political sphere to address the ongoing blockade on Gaza.

“The series’ objective is to raise awareness of social problems in a simplified comical way,” Hesham, another member, says.

“Because our youth see their dreams slipping away, our show aims to turn tears of despair into tears of laughter,” he says, adding that he hoped laughter could evoke feelings of hope.

The director of the team, Thaer Munir, is a 26-year-old journalism graduate.

Munir quickly saw a huge knack for acting in Mahmoud, a friend from college, and the two began brainstorming and recruiting more talent to the team.

Once the team was in place, they used Mahmoud’s small apartment in Deir Al Balah as their studio.

After the success of their first pilot, which was uploaded to YouTube, people began asking for more.

Then in 2014, Palestine TV broadcasted 30 episodes of their show during Ramadan.

Five years after their first pilot, their videos have more than one million views, and their Facebook page has more than 300,000 followers.

On the streets of Gaza they have become major celebrities with fans always approaching them to take selfies.

However, their success story wasn’t easy and came with a slew of challenges.

The guys wanted to improve the quality of their production but the blockade limited their ability to seek professional courses abroad so they would turn to YouTube to get pointers.

“The biggest challenges that we suffer in Gaza is the lack of cutting-edge equipment as well as the lack of resources and sponsors. We had to self-finance our productions when we first started our work in the hope we find sponsorship in the future,” Adnan, another member, told Gulf News.

They also filmed during the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, where they would have only 3 hours of electricity a day.

“We shot, used montages, and uploaded material as fast as possible so that we could provide our audience with constant content,” Mahmoud said.

Although the team thrives on humour to cope with hardship, they found it very challenging to keep smiling during the war as Mahmoud and Hesham lost family members during the Israeli assault.

During the relentless bombing, Mahmoud turned his home into a shelter for 17 displaced families, but later it was entirely destroyed by an Israeli F-16 missile.

Three years later, the guys have picked up the pieces and pushed forward with their pet project-turned-career.

“Palestine is overflowing with amazing talent and creative minds who can provide diverse forms of art,” Mahmoud says.

Despite their circumstances, the team is aiming high and hopes to one day represent Palestine at international festivals.

“We want the world to know Palestinians have talent and can be creative if given the chance,” Hesham said.