DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
A HOUSE IN JERUSALEM (director: Amos Gitai; cinematographer: Nurit Aviv; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1998-Israel/France-in Hebrew, French, Arabic and English with English subtitles)

 
"Probing documentary... ."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Amos Gitai ("Promised Land"/"Kippur"/"Kadosh") directs this probing documentary about the Israeli and Arab conflict and he also acts as interviewer, as he revisits some 20 years later the same house he made a documentary for Israeli television in 1978 that was banned. The film is filled with interviews with displaced Arabs and Jews who have settled here from all over the world believing it's the best place to practice their faith. The interviews include impromptu chats with the current occupants, former occupants, passers-by and neighbors. 

The house in question, located on Dor Dor Vedorshav, was built 100 years ago (around 1898), during Turkish rule, by German Templars, and has passed through British rule and in 1948 the Israeli state claimed it when the wealthy occupants fled because of the war. The street name is thought to be a term taken from the Bible meaning the "Passing of Generations," as each generation is meant to interpret the Bible anew to fit its own generation. 

The house is used by Gitai as a metaphor to try and explain the current conflict in Israel between the Jews and Arabs. For the Arabs, the house is seen as once being Palestine and now taken over by Israel. Some see that they made a mistake when they initially refused to compromise with the Jews and held out for everything or nothing. The Arabs living in East Jerusalem who were interviewed said they were happy to be working for Jewish construction companies, but say the conflict can only be resolved if they are now allowed to bargain for what's theirs by being allowed entry into the house to talk with the new owners as equals. They speak of seeking only peaceful means through bargaining to gain what is theirs, which is the only hope seen by them for a lasting peace. After talking with the new Jewish residents in the house, many children of Holocaust victims, in a place that houses many families and has added more floors and structures, no one seems optimistic that there ever will be peace. But no one expressed on either side a hatred for the other, both Arab and Jew went out of the way to say they are all human beings with the same wants and desires for peace. The sad part is that no believes they will see a true peace in their lifetime. 

I don't know about the house being the perfect metaphor for the Israeli conflict, but I do know the conflict will only be settled by political compromise and not by war. This will occur only when the leaders on both sides start really listening to the more moderate and sane people and try to work out a solution that concerns human needs over political needs. This documentary only confirms for me that there are people of good will on both sides who deserve a chance for peace in their lifetime.

REVIEWED ON 2/12/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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