The Cinema of Amos Gitai

Serge Toubiana, Baptiste Piégay
Lincoln Center / Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, 2005
238 pages

About this book

The success of Kadosh in 1999 has enabled the public to discover Amos Gitai. Since his beginnings in 1980, critics have always paid attention to the work of this filmmaker, and the media has contributed greatly to his becoming known, especially since he himself incarnates Israeli cinema. Since Kadosh, Gitai has made film upon film, maintaining his rhythm: Kippur in 2000 (an autobiographical film that portrays his own experience as a soldier), Eden in 2001 (an adaptation of an Arthur Miller novel), the Kedma in 2002 (about European immigrants who escaped the Shoah in 1948), Alila in 2003 (on the daily life in Tel Aviv today), Promised Land in 2004, the traffic of women to the Middle East and Free Zone in 2005, an utopian image where everybody disputes and converges arount the merchandising of cars.

The journey of Amos Gitai has in no way taken a straight or predictable trajectory. At the time of his first documentaries (House in 1980 and Field Diary in 1982), serious encounters with censors forced him to leave Israel. His years of exile, mainly in Paris, offered him the possibility of experimenting, traveling, setting his vision upon the world: America, Asia, Europe. But the filmmaker feels deeply that it is in Israel that he has to film above all. In the middle of the 1990s, he began his City Trilogy: Devarim, shot in Tel Aviv (1995), Yom Yom in Haifa (1998), and Kadosh in Jerusalem (1999). Half of this book is made up of interviews with Amos Gitai. There, one discovers the biographical and artistic trajectory of a filmmaker who alternates bewteen fiction and documentary. The rest of the book is an essay by Serge Toubiana, assisted by Baptiste Piégay, which provides the reader with a few paths for the analysis of a body of work that already contains around fifty films. Each of Amos Gitai's films poses questions of Jewish identity, of territory, of the mythological imagination that is based on fundamental axes - first of all, the Bible, but also the political and geographical reality of the Middle East. These issues, so currently relevant, are handled by Amos Gitai with a freedom of spirit and a courage that does not waver. The work is followed by a detailed filmography.

Serge Toubiana is the director of the Cinémathèque française. He was the chief editor for Cahiers du cinéma from 1981 to 2001.
Baptiste Piégay is a critic for Cahiers du cinéma.