"…this striking cinematic collage provides a hauntingly personal perspective on a country that has been wracked by strife
from its very beginnings."
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
"Everyone’s a Director, and a Nation Is the Star:
…The private moments give us a tantalizing sense of
peeking behind the curtain"
Rachel Saltz, The New York Times
" hopeful, infuriating, and heartbreaking”
Stuart Klawans, The Nation
Israel: Trapped between dream and reality
"Israel: A Home Movie" captures the collision
between idealism and reality that defines
a troubled, vibrant nation"
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
"…A masterfully woven cinematic tapestry of family footage.
‘Israel: A Home Movie’ is not your typical sugar-coated documentary,
but a miraculous piece of art depicting the peoples’ truth"
Jordan Hoffman , The Times of Israel
"…A vivid tapestry of history,
told with competing voices and challenged assumptions,
just like any good family story."
Chris Barsanti , Film Journal International Review
"…The breadth of the everyman perspective makes this
a worthwhile time travel"
Nora Lee Mandel, Film Forward
"…Bernstein’s team is blessed with a wealth of source material"
Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine
"One of the most buzzed-about Israeli documentaries",
"A huge and fascinating project",
"..the story of a country, pained, hopeful, infuriating and heartbreaking",
Stuart Klawans, The Nation
Israel: A Home Movie weaves together stunning home movie footage from the early years of Israel up until the late 70's, to offer a critical look at the history of the Jewish state. Showing the birth of one nation and the exile of another, the film goes on to capture the development of Israeli society within the first 30 years of the country. The images recount history from a complex Zionist perspective, revealing Israel's tangled past.
Over the last decade,hundreds of hours of home movie footage have been gathered, captured by amateur photographers for the sole purpose of documenting the most important moments in their families' lives. Searching through locked drawers, dilapidated cellars, and cluttered attics, reels upon reels of original 8mm, 16mm and Super 8 film have been salvaged, all tell the story of Israel from the early part of the 20th century.
The film intertwines day to day life with significant moments in the history of this volatile area from the 1930's to the 1970's. Presenting daily life, celebrations, and vacations – alongside decisive historical milestones, the film offers a personal interpretation of Israel's history.
The footage shows firsthand accounts of pivotal events including the waves of Jewish immigration in the 1930's and 40's, Palestine during the years of the Holocaust, the declining relationship and rising tensions between Jews and Arabs, and the outbreak and decimation of the 1948 War. The film goes on to show the mass absorption of Jewish immigrants in the 1950's, the trauma of the Holocaust survivors, the Six Day War and its euphoric aftermath, Israel in the swinging 60's and 70's, the Yom Kippur War, the rise of the settlement movement in the territories, and the historic visit of Egypt's President to Israel.
Israel: A Home Movie recounts history not from an official perspective, but instead tells the vast story of a people, a land, an era and a conflict, from an intimate lens. The film’s power lies in its ability to simultaneously evoke a sense of nostalgia and profound political unease. The images present a vivid collage, achieved through cinematic editing of the commonplace, exposing an untold and alternative narrative of Israel's history.
Duke University Library, June 2014
University of Florida, May 2014
Cinema du Parc. March 2014
Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival, January 2014
Washington Jewish Film Festival, December 2013
Palm Beach Israeli Film Series, December 2013
Cornell Cinema, November 2013
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, September 2013
Washington Jewish Film Festival, USA 2013
Palace Cinemas Australia Israeli culture exchange Film Festival, Australia 2013
Film Forum NY, USA 2013
FilmIsreel International Film Festival, Holand 2013
Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Canada 2013
Krakow International Film Festival, Poland 2013
Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel 2012
Everyone’s a Director, and a Nation Is the Star
‘Israel: A Home Movie’ Is a Revealing Collage
By RACHEL SALTZ, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: July 9, 2013
“He only filmed pretty girls,” one woman says of her father near the beginning of Eliav Lilti’s “Israel: A Home Movie,” as flickering black-and-white images show women smiling, posing or caught unaware. The woman’s remark is affectionate and just a bit scandalized about this long-dead papa, whose amateur films reveal as much about him as about his subjects.
You feel something of that doubled vision all through Mr. Lilti’s film, a collage of life, ordinary and otherwise, from the 1930s to the mid-’70s. These mostly silent home movies often have the tug of nostalgia, especially those that show domestic life (children sitting on chamber pots is a favorite theme). But images can be slippery, showing something different from what their creators intended. Even as Mr. Lilti constructs a history — the producer Arik Bernstein is credited as “project creator” — he seems to show its fissures.
Mr. Lilti includes film from across the social spectrum. We see footage shot by Iraqi immigrants; by Western European immigrants, who find Israel poor and backward, and by Eastern Europeans struggling for a toehold; by people on kibbutzim; and by people like Udi Dayan, who has home movies of himself and his father, Moshe, caught, at one point, urinating in the desert.
We also hear voices — of the men behind the cameras (and they are almost all men), but not just. Looking at her younger self, one woman is delighted to note that, contrary to family myth, she did have breasts when young.
The private moments give us a tantalizing sense of peeking behind the curtain, even more so when they bleed into public ones. A mass wedding takes place in a cave in newly conquered territory in 1967; the grooms are in fatigues, the women in white. Crowds, including Arabs, look on. What is everyone thinking? The voice we hear belongs to one of the brides.
“I took my camera to all the wars,” one soldier says. And this being Israel, those wars mark the passage of time as surely as changing hairstyles and collar sizes. In a remarkable sequence, an Israeli soldier filmed the military police beating and humiliating captured Egyptians. In another, an all-male beach getaway in 1973 is interrupted when the young men — and their camera — see a fighter plane shot down over the water. Swedish girls who happen by wonder what’s going on.
One story Mr. Lilti wants to tell is of the complicated relationship between Jews and Arabs, which many of the commentators remind us wasn’t always one of unvarnished animosity. The images and voices are a mix of the curious, the compassionate, the condescending and worse.
What was the attitude of the cameraman who, just after Israeli independence, filmed a mosque’s minaret being destroyed in a neighborhood so recently shared by Jews and Arabs: Triumphant? Ashamed? Heard in voice-over, two sisters from the neighborhood disagree about it. One says her conscience is clear — a minaret isn’t holy, after all, only the mosque. The other finds it hard to watch.
What we don’t see is footage shot by Arab-Israelis. Nor do we hear their voices, except in a snippet from 1968. Israeli soldiers hike around in the newly occupied territories while soberly dressed Arabs look on. An Israeli says that the Arabs watching were friendly, probably because they didn’t really understand what was happening.
But a Palestinian, whose words were recorded at the scene, tells a different story. Watching the Israelis go by, he says, feels “like a knife put in our heart.”
Israel A Home Movie Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan.
A version of this review appeared in print on July 10, 2013, on page C4 of the New York edition with the headline: Everyone’s a Director, and a Nation Is the Star.
Filmmaker Arik Bernstein has rescued hundreds of collections of old home movies to paint a multifaceted picture of 20th-century Israel - as caught on tape by everyday people.
"The whole idea here is there is no one Israeli narrative," concludes Arik. "This is no official history. It's not a left-wing look at history, or a right-wing look. These are personal histories - little moments that make up a whole, and show something of who we are."
By Danna Harman, Israel seen through the prism of home movies, Haaretz, July 11, 2012
Read the full article
The Holocaust was an undercurrent in a number of films, as it is in Israeli politics. " Israel: A Home Movie", a collection of grainy reels from the 1930s to the '70s, starts out largely as a survivors' story, with one man recalling being told when his ship landed to save money for the return passage. Plodding at first, the movie eventually gets to some remarkable clips: one, recorded by the sons of Moshe Dayan, shows the legendary general, with his signature eye patch, relieving himself in a field. War and military service seemed as ever-present on screen as they are in Israeli reality, and so these home movies include a soldier’s chronicle of marching victoriously through the West Bank the day after Israel captured it from Jordan in 1967. Even more stunning is footage of a beach party on Yom Kippur, 1973, interrupted by a fighter jet being shot down over the sea.
by Jodi Rudoren, Israel, When the Lights Go Down, Sunday Review, The New York Times, July 21, 2012