Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitaï‘s new film, ‘Ana Arabia’ or ‘Me, the Arab’ tells the true story of a holocaust survivor who comes to the young state of Israel, marries an Arab, and converts to Islam. A young journalist goes looking for the truth about her and her family.
Gitai uses the journalist’s quest to capture a moment, the 81-minute movie comprising one continuous take in a moving, bravura example of direction and story telling, in a forgotten enclave on the frontier between Jaffa and Bat Yam.
The film is a clarion call for peace between Jews and Arabs, and could not have come out at a more painful time.
Gitai is a veteran of the peace movement and 80 films, many of them documentaries, made over a 40-year career. He is also a video installation artist, writes, and directs for the theatre.
He has always been outspoken about Jews and Arabs needing to find an understanding, and with this film he reminds audiences that despite the paranoia and the tension there is an uncanny, almost sibling similarity between the two peoples.
Gitai spoke to euronews about the film and what he hopes to achieve.
Fred Ponsard, euronews: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has just been through one of its bloodiest episodes in Gaza. Your movie sketches the possibility of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land. Filmmakers, writers – are they today the last bastions against nationalism and extremism?”
Amos Gitai: “I do believe that in the face of physical bombardment, images, literature, visual art and cinema should build bridges, a form of dialogue. We must refuse the morbid outlook of this region. Me, I tried with my movie, ‘Ana Arabia’, to show a kind of small microcosm in which people, Jews and Arabs, men and women can exist side by side.”
euronews: “Your film is a technical masterpiece. Shot on a steady-cam it seems to be a beautiful cinematic metaphor, not cutting between Jews and Arabs, there is no break, and the conversation flows between the two. Was this intentional?”
Amos Gitai: “As a citizen, I do not want any break between Jews and Arabs. If I translate this in my own language as a filmmaker, that is to say, the syntax of the film, I do not want to cut it, so I haven’t. There is a single shot of 81 minutes. And actually in this series of characters – featuring their memories and their reports – we get to explain, show and create relationships with all these characters.”
euronews: “Your movie was released in Israel a few months ago. What;s been the reaction?”
Amos Gitai: “I think it is much easier to show images of war than to speak of peace. It is not a very popular topic, even the words Peace, Shalom, Salaam. Peace. People dare not speak the word. I think it’s necessary. But there were always people in Israel who enjoyed the movie. Others said it was not right to think that there can’t be a mixture, between Jews and Arabs.”
euronews: “There is a war of images going on right now in the media, but also in social networks. Is this multiplication of images, whose sources are not always reliable, further amplifying the violence and the resentment?”
Amos Gitai: “I often see the “No Comment” section on euronews. I think it shows some beautiful sequences that are able to explain and give meaning to the movement of cameras, avoiding this kind of hype, this sort of long news bulletin.
“There are always very short images that give us the illusion that we understand something, but actually no, this is not true. And I think we, the people of the Middle East, are used to images being used as an instrument of war. And, with this approach, we have managed to poison all images from this region.”