'I want it seen by everyone over the age of 18 in the world'

‘The party is over’: Documentary on #Nova, the desert rave that became a massacre

Dan Pe’er shows ‘the dancing and the RPGs,’ using footage filmed by partygoers and Hamas terrorists, for 52-minute film on the Oct. 7 Supernova festival, where 360 were slaughtered

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

From '#Nova,' the 52-minute documentary for Yes Studios about what took place at the Supernova desert rave on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)
From '#Nova,' the 52-minute documentary for Yes Studios about what took place at the Supernova desert rave on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

It took Israeli filmmaker Dan Pe’er less than two months to create “Nova,” an intensely raw and painful 52-minute documentary about the October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists on revelers at the Supernova music rave.

The film, made for Israel’s Yes Studios, with videos filmed by some of the 3,000-plus party-goers as well as by the Hamas terrorists intent on killing them, is a deep, disturbing dive into the chaotic, terrifying hours of the assault, in which 360 people were killed and dozens more assaulted and taken hostage to Gaza.

“I want it to be seen by every person over the age of 18 in the world,” said Pe’er, a documentary filmmaker and docu-reality TV director. “It’s a movie that shows the holocaust that happened there.”

It was a herculean task for Pe’er, who conceived of the film during his volunteer work during the first two weeks of the war, as he downloaded photos and videos from social media in order to create profiles of each missing person and identify them.

“There were thousands of people missing, the government wasn’t functioning, there was a huge amount of chaos,” said Pe’er, a self-described “freak of news coverage,” who spent the first hours of the October 7 glued to the Telegram app where details of the attack were unfolding. “From morning until night, my job was to create a profile video or picture of each person.”

He was exposed to thousands of videos, of people recording themselves and of the Hamas terrorists filming the assaults and murders and then posting them on Telegram.

From ‘#Nova,’ the 52-minute documentary for Yes Studios about what took place at the Supernova desert rave on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

“For two weeks, that’s what I saw, it was in my soul and brain, and we all just looked at each other and couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” said Pe’er.

He couldn’t sleep for most of those nights, and then Pe’er dreamed of this film, from beginning to end. When he woke up, he told his husband what he’d imagined, and set out to make “#Nova.”

With the help of a friend, they gathered a team of volunteers, set up a war room in his friend’s home and began gathering videos from survivors and downloading hundreds of films from social media, mostly by typing “#nova.”

In the film (below in full, with Hebrew subtitles), viewers see what happened on that morning from the very personal perspective of those who were there.

The start of the film brings viewers into the beginning of the Negev rave, as friends exchange messages about what to wear and bring with them, and then as people enter the event, looking forward to 24 hours of partying.

Viewers get a sense of the mosh pit, the DJs grooving to the crowd, and then, a split screen with Hamas gunmen on mopeds, RPGs on their shoulders, shouting “Allah akbar!”

Very quickly, the tone changes as the first rockets streak through the sky with the October 7 sunrise, and the rave organizers quickly realize that something is happening and shut down the party.

“I’m so terrified, I’m so high,” says one young man as he records the first rockets launched into Israel.

“The party is over,” announces an organizer into a megaphone, telling the crowd they have 15 seconds to find shelter or lay on the ground and cover their heads when a siren sounds.

“Only in Israel,” says one reveler. “Who makes a party in Gaza?”

It’s one of the comments that portends the real, frightening truth of what happened, as it was later revealed that the Hamas gunmen did not initially know about the party, but happened upon it by chance as they invaded Israel, massacring hundreds and then dragging dozens of young people to captivity in Gaza.

The raw, unedited footage veers between partygoers calling and texting their parents, everyone trying to understand why the army and police aren’t on the scene, and whether it was better to hide or flee, while Hamas terrorists gun their mopeds forward, clearly thrilled with what lies ahead.

There are clips of people fleeing through the dry fields, phones in hand as they record what’s happening. Some people shut their eyes and pray as the terrorists’ bullets whistle by their heads. Others hide in ditches and gulleys, filming themselves and those nearby as a memento, they say, saying goodbye to their loved ones.

Hundreds flee gunmen at a music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, October 7, 2023. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Those who tried to escape in cars fought their rising panic as they searched for a way out of the traffic jam that formed at the rave’s exit. They scream in pain when they think they recognize a friend among the bodies lying on the road or see dead bodies sitting in a bullet-ridden car.

If not for this almost accidental footage taken by the mostly 20-something crowd, said Pe’er, he wouldn’t have been able to piece together the film.

“They felt it was the last moments of their life and just wanted to document it,” he said. “It’s the generation of Tiktok; they film themselves at all moments, of celebration and the disasters, too.”

Some of them purposely filmed, others may have just left their cameras open by accident.

“But because of that documentation, there’s the movie,” said Pe’er.

The same can be said of the GoPros worn by Hamas terrorists, pointed out Pe’er, who wanted that contrast of those who were celebrating life versus those celebrating murder.

“I’m glad they filmed, they filmed the massacre and I wanted this dual view, the people of light and the people of darkness,” he said. “The dancing and the RPGs.”

As the hours passed, security forces finally arrived, but they encountered a disastrous scene, with dead bodies strewn alongside the road, around the festival grounds, and all around the bar and stage.

‘#Nova’ filmmaker Dan Pe’er (Courtesy Yehudit Rakovsky)

Pe’er doesn’t include graphic images of the dead and injured that would push people away from seeing the film.

Rather, he wanted to honor the memories of those killed and their families, while still showing the threatening tone of that day, placing the viewers in the party and feeling the fear and sense of doom as the partygoers ran for their lives.

Part of that sense of fear and dread comes from the chronological order of the film, with the clock ticking, showing the hours that passed as the attack began at 6:29 a.m. and the security forces only entered at 2 p.m., seven and a half hours later.

Supernova survivors who have seen the film told Pe’er that it puts things in perspective for them, allowing them to understand the order of events and why no one was able to save them.

“At this point, I’m in touch with them daily, helping those who need it,” said Pe’er.

He also may need some help himself to recover from the images and sounds of what he’s watched over the last two months. When he told a psychologist what he was doing, she told him he was crazy, that he needed to separate himself from what he’d seen in his weeks volunteering, not pull himself closer.

“I told her that I have no choice,” said Pe’er. “I’m a soldier of sorts, and my task is to tell this story because I’m a documentary filmmaker, that’s my personality. The soul is hurt but it was worth it.”

“#Nova” is being shown in Israel on Yes, is on Youtube above, and will be screened at universities around the world, said Pe’er.

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