interviews

Amos Gïtai

Cinema and dialogue

For once, Amos Gitaï is reluctant to address the subject of the current troubles afflicting the Middle East, but his film, Kedma speaks volumes. This highly intelligent Israeli director is a child of the Jewish Diaspora who has always refused to take sides.Kedma (competition at Cannes 55) is the story of a ship that brought Europe´s walking wounded Jewish Holocaust survivors to the Promised Land. Israel. Kedma is set in May 1948, on the eve of David Ben Gurion´s historic announcement and the end of the British occupation of Palestine. It is also the story of the first of a seemingly endless list of Arab-Jewish conflicts that featured heavily in Gitaï´s two earlier films, Kippur and Eden. «The 1948 war also set down the geographical borders and began the Palestinian exodus. It is a coincidence that the anniversary falls round about now, just as it was a coincidence when Berlin Jerusalem was screened in Venice on the same day that Mussolini seized power.»
Gitaï refuses to be drawn in his answers while condemning media interference on recent Middle East events. «Television news programmes resemble TV series where the victims become extras in a totally unpredictable media game.»

Back to 2002, were you tempted to take the advice of the American Jewish Congress to boycott Cannes?
It is right to stand up against antisemitism and racism because we must never repeat the mistakes of the past but Cannes is a place of dialogue and dialogue must be encouraged.

Does the return of antisemitism in Europe disturb you? It is an issue that you forecast in your documentary entitled «Wuppertal».
In France, Holland and Italy we are seeing a process of revisionism, with a repetition of past mistakes and that should not be happening. Antisemitism is born of the same plant as the hatred of Palestinians and Europeans would do well to reflect on these issues very carefully.

Do you think that Kedma will not be welcomed by Israeli audiences because of the voice it gives to the Arab characters and your use of Palestinian poet, Tawfik Zayad´s poetry?
Criticism is part of Jewish culture and tradition. The best bits of the Bible are critical. I love my country, and went to live there and I criticise it when I think it needs to be criticised. A rabbi once wrote me a five-page letter about Kadosh where he analysed every single mistake I made in the film and ended the letter by saying «and in any case I have no intention of going to see your film.» Well, all I can say is that one should first see a film before talking about it. My country does not hold just one opinion about the Palestinians.

Do you believe that Israel´s intellectuals are sufficiently clear in their opinions?
We must create a strong image of our country and have a strong film industry. And I don´t mean just political because if a film is just about politics and lacks a distinguishing style, I think of it as a failure. Today we have several talented young filmmakers and so I am hopeful.

Is it also a production issue? Your films, for example, would never have been made without French or Italian money.
Lots of my projects have been turned down by Israeli producers, and I found the money elsewhere. But in no way did that change their form or content. I don´t think that it is a question of production even if films must have a material basis.

In 1946 the poet Haim Azaz wrote that Jews for many centuries lacked a history of their own. Today, for better or worse they are making history.
For centuries Jews were discriminated against, persecuted and burned. Jews were not the masters of their destiny and did not have a land of their own. Having your own country gives you power and power leads to contradiction and abuse.

Merav Yudilovitch