Amos Gitai

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Amos Gitai
Amos portrait 1.jpg
Born (1950-10-11) 11 October 1950 (age 64)
Haifa, Israel
Occupation Filmmaker, Author
Spouse(s) Rivka Gitai (1980-present)

Amos Gitai (born 11 October 1950) is an Israeli filmmaker, mainly known for making documentaries and feature films, surrounding the Middle East and Jewish-Arab conflict. His work was presented in several major retrospective in Pompidou Center Paris, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New-York, the Lincoln Center New-York and the British Film Institute London. To date Amos Gitai has created over 90 works of art throughout 38 years. Between 1999 and 2011 seven of his films were entered in the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d'Or as well as the Venice Film Festival for the Golden Lion award.[1] He has worked with Juliette Binoche, Jeanne Moreau, Natalie Portman, Yael Abecassis, Samuel Fuller, Hanna Schygulla, Annie Lennox Barbara Hendricks, Lea Seydoux, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Simon et Markus Stockhausen, Henri Alekan, Renato Berta, Nurith Aviv, Eric Gautier and more. Since 2000 he has collaborated with the French filmmaker, Marie-José Sanselme. He received several prestigious prizes, in particular the Leopard of Honor at the Locarno International Film Festival (2008), the Roberto Rossellini prize (2005), the Robert Bresson prize (2013) and the Paradjanov prize (2014).

Gitai was born in Haifa and divides his time today between Paris and Haifa.

Early life[edit]

Gitai was born to Munio Weinraub, an architect of the pre-war Bauhaus movement in Germany, and to Efratia Margalit, an intellectual, storyteller and a teacher.[2][3][4] His father was an architect of the pre-war Bauhaus movement in Germany.[5] He holds a degree in Architecture from the Technion in Haifa and a PhD in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Gitai had to interrupte his architecture studies as he was called up to reserve service as part of a helicopter rescue crew. While serving, he shot 8mm footage of the fighting, claiming this served as his entry into the world of film making.[6]

Film career[edit]


Amos Gitai and Jeanne Moreau at the One day you'll understand shooting, (2008)

Gitai began his career directing mostly documentaries. In 1980 he directed his first full-length Israeli film, Home (1980), the first part of the House Trilogy: Home (1980) A House in Jerusalem (1998), News from Home / News from House (2005). The film follows a house in West-Jerusalem, abandoned during the 1948 war by its Palestinian owner. It was rejected and was censured by the Israeli television, however it was screened at the Berlin and the Rotterdam International Film Festivals..[7] Serge Daney wrote “Gitaï wants this house to be both a symbol and something very concrete; he wants it to become a character in a film. He achieves one of the most beautiful things a camera can register 'live', as it were; people who look at the same thing but see different things - and who are moved by that vision. In this crumbling shell of a house, real hallucinations begin to take shape. The film's central idea is simple and the film has simply the force of that idea, no more, no less.” (Serge Daney, Libération, March 1, 1982).

House was the first trilogy of many others; a concept Gitai consistently worked with during his career, offering a complex and layered view on the Geo-political Israeli reality.

"Gitaï wants this house to be both a symbol and something very concrete; he wants it to become a character in a film. He achieves one of the most beautiful things a camera can register 'live', as it were; people who look at the same thing but see different things - and who are moved by that vision. In this crumbling shell of a house, real hallucinations begin to take shape. The film's central idea is simple and the film has simply the force of that idea, no more, no less." (Serge Daney, Libération, March 1, 1982)

Wadi (Wadi 1981, Wadi Ten Years After 1991, Wadi Grand Canyon 2001), similar to House is dealing with a specific location and examines the complex relationships between the residents of the former stone quarry: Eastern European immigrants, survivors of the camps and Arabs who have also been expelled from their homes. Gitai turns the valley into a symbol of a possible coexistence.[8]

In 1982 he directed Field Diary (1982). A film-diary shot in the occupied territories before and during the invasion of Lebanon and, creating a controversy and leading to Gitai leaving Israel for France (1983-1993).[9] "'Field Diary” offers a civilian image of war, […] setting it apart from the rest of audio-visual production by its content as much as by its mode of operation, by the solution it offers to a problem that pertains to the ethics of the filmmaker as much as to the aesthetics of cinema” (Yann Lardeau, “Une éthique du travelling”, Cahiers du cinéma, n°344, February 1983).

Gitai created as well fiction trilogies.The "Exile Trilogy" composed of "Esther, 1985 that tells the Old Testament story of Esther, who does not know she is Jewish when she is chosen by King Ashasuerus as his wife and was presented at the International Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival. Berlin-Jérusalem, 1989 was based on the biographies of the German expressionist poet, Else Lasker-Schüler, and the Russian Zionist, Mania Shohat, and their respective itineraries towards the mythical Jerusalem of the 1930s.[10][11] The film represented Israel in Venice Festival Film and won first prize at the Istanbul Festival.[12] and Golem, l’esprit de l’exil, 1991 which explores the contemporary meanings of the Book of Ruth in the Bible.[13]

"The director holds the story at an analytical distance. Events are re-enacted in a sequence of ritual tableaux shot in the ruins of Wadi Salib, the old Arab neighbourhood of Haifa that the Palestinians abandoned after the 1948 war. The sense of ancient unsettled scores that have simmered for centuries is almost palpable in this beautiful but ravaged territory. In the most striking shots, the actors seem to blend into the architecture like the figures in Persian miniatures. These shots are pointedly contrasted with others photographed in the same vicinity, which make it look like a squalid contemporary junkyard. The juxtapositions suggest how overwhelmingly the region's history continues to haunt Israel's present." (Stephen Holden, The New York Times, May 19,1989)

Amos Gitai and Henri Alekan, shooting Esther, 1986.

The "City Trilogy" ("Devarim", 1995 ; "Yom Yom", 1998 ; "Kadosh", 1999), was created after Gitai’s return to Israel in 1993, after Yitzhak Rabin’s victory in the elections and the Oslo Accords. Each film is dedicated to a different city in Israel: "Devarim" takes place in Tel Aviv, and is after the novel by Yaakov Shabtai, Past Continuous. The film depicts the spiritual disarray of three men in their thirties and forties, in the agitation and turmoil of Tel Aviv, the city created by Jewish pioneers in 1909. None of them has the life he had imagined. “Yom Yom” draws upon Haifa’s tradition of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jewish neighbours to tell a dark comic tale of characters driven by divided loyalties and neurotic inhibitions. Leslie Camhi wrote “Gitaï’s genius is to show the conflict infiltrating every encounter, from the marketplace to the bedroom and beyond; the vivid portraits of Israeli social types, whether arrogant reservists or hapless nebbishes, stand in sharp contrast to images promoted in the media.” (Leslie Camhi, Village Voice, February 20, 2001). Kadosh is set in Mea Shearim, the ultra-orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem and tells the story of Meïr and Rivka, that have been married for ten years but have to divorce because they have no children.[14] The review in The Wall Street Journal: Kadosh - the title means "sacred" - addresses universal themes. Among them are the demands of ultra-orthodox religion, which confines as it sustains, and the suffering of men and women whose religion comes before love, but whose culture lacks a vocabulary for expressing personal pain. Yet Kadosh is also foreign in the extreme, an austere and shocking portrait of daily life in Mea Shearim, the Hasidic Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. (...) Kadosh is a horror story, or rather two horror stories intertwined, about women tyrannised by men in the name of religious belief." (The Wall Street Journal, March 17th, 2000)

Another fiction trilogy deals with important historical events in Israel:Kippur , 2000; Eden , 2001; Kedma , 2002. Kippur (2000) was Israel's first large-scale cinematic depiction of the considerably difficult and traumatic Yom Kippur War of 1973. Critics praised its absence of sensationalism and its unsentimental depiction of war..[15] Charles Tesson wrote in "Les Cahiers du Cinéma": “Throughout the film, the viewer remains locked in this absurd question: are we in the war or is that happening somewhere else, off-screen, or was it happening just before the camera got there? We never know for certain and then we realise that this uncertainty is in fact the most profound truth of war, as cinema has hardly ever shown it, with a force and an intensity that takes your breath away. […] The principle for filming warfare in Kippur is simple, limpid. Favouring real time spaces, […] making the camera an extra person walking with the soldiers, running behind the others to get on the helicopter before it takes off. The viewer is inside the war while remaining outside the group, accompanying them. Never does the film encourage in the viewer that fantasy of being one of them.” (Charles Tesson, Les Cahiers du Cinéma, n°549, September 2000).

In 2004 he directs Promised Land , the first film of the “Frontier Trilogy”, which continues with Free Zone (2005) and Disengagement (2007). Promised Land is presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival and "Free Zone" is screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where its star Hannah Laslo receives the prize for the best female actress.[16] >.

Amos Gitaï with Hanna Laslo and Natalie Portman, shooting of film Free Zone, 2005

Novel adaptations[edit]

Gitai created several novel adaptaions. “One day you'll understand” ("Plus tard tu comprendras", 2008) is based on an autobiographical book by Jerome Clement, president of the Arte television channel and one of the leading figures of French culture and tells the story of a French writer tracing the story of his Jewish mother (Jeanne Moreau) and her family during World War II. “Roses à credit” (2010) is an adaptation of the novel by Elsa Triolet and takes a look at the materialist, post-war world of the French lower middle-class.[17] The film was shot entirely in France. “Tsili” (2014) is inspired by the novel by Aharon Appelfeld, and tells the story of the wandering of its heroin submerged in the nightmare of the war. "Tsili", a young Jewish woman, gathers all the forces of intuition and vitality to survive in this desperate universe..[18] "I was inspired by what Aharon Appelfeld told Philip Roth :The reality of the Holocaust surpassed any imagination. If I remained true to the facts, no one would believe me. But the moment I chose a girl, a little older than I was at that time, I removed the story of my life from the mighty grip of memory and gave it over to the creative laboratory. There memory is not the only proprietor. There one needs a causal explanation, a thread to tie things together. The exceptional is permissible only if it is part of an overall structure and contributes to its understanding. When I wrote Tsili I was interested in the possibilities of naiveness in art. Can there be a naive modern art? It seemed to me that without the naivete still found among children and old people and, to some extent, in ourselves, the work of art would be flawed. I tried to correct that flaw. (Amos Gitai)

Exhibitions, publications and performances[edit]

Gitai’s work include film installations, stage work and books publications. Various publications and exhibitions took place, devoted to his parents Munio and Efratia: Traces at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the Bauhaus (Dessau, Germany), the art museum of the Ein Harod kibbutz (Israel), and Kib- butz Kfar Masaryk Dining Hall at the MoMA (New York, 2013). Retrospective and installation at the Museo nazionale del cinema in Turin. In 2010 Gitai presents at The Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe “The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness", a work staged in the Boulbon quarry, at the Avignon Festival (July 2009). He publishes as well the letters of his mother Efratia (Efratia Gitai: Correspondence 1929–1994, Gallimard), which are read by Jeanne Moreau at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe and on France Culture. In 2011 Gitai inaugurated the Munio Gitai Weinraub Architecture Museum in his father’s old offices in Haifa.[19][20]

In September 2015, his film Rabin, the Last Day had its world premiere at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.[21]


Ophrah Shemesh and Hanna Schygulla in Golem, l'esprit de l'exil, 1991

Exhibitions, performances[edit]

  • Exhibition at the galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria, 2015[22]
  • Correspondence, Efrati Gitai – Letters, Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2011
  • Traces - Munio Gitai – Weinraub, Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2011
  • Traces, an installation at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2011[23]
  • Lullaby for my father, a video presentation in Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, Israel, 2010
  • The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, (with Jeanne Moreau), Festival d'Avignon, France, 2009
  • Traces - Evento, Bordeaux, 2009
  • Munio Weinraub / Amos Gitai - Architecture und Film in Israel, Pinakothek der Moderne, ArchitekturMuseum, Munich, 2008-2009[24]
  • Munio Weinraub / Amos Gitai - Architecture and Film in Israel, Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv Museum of Art 2008-2009
  • Amos Gitai: Non-Fiction, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) New York, 2008[25]
  • Exhibition in memory of his father Munia Gitai – Weinraub - Amos Gitai, Olivier Cinqualbre and Lionel Richard, Centre Pompidou, Paris 2006
  • Public Housing - long video presentation screens, Ein Harod Museum, Herzliya Museum, Saitama Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan, 2000
  • Open Shen Zen - Performance, Helena Rubinstein Pavilion, Tel - Aviv 1998
  • Exhibition in memory to his father - Munio Gitai – Weinraub, Jerusalem Museum, Israel, 1994


Books on Amos Gitai's work[edit]

  • Cinema di Amos Gitai: Frontiere e territori (Il), Serge Toubiana, Bruno Mondadori, Torino, 2006
  • Amos Gitai: News from Home, Walther König, Köln, 2006
  • The Cinema of Amos Gitai,Serge Toubiana, Baptiste Piégay, Lincoln Center / Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, 2005
  • Amos Gitai, Serge Toubiana, Mostra internacional de cinema / Cosac Naify, São Paulo, 2004
  • Exilios y territories, el cine de Amos Gitai, Serge Toubiana, Baptiste Piégay, Semana Internacional de Cine, Valladolid, 2004
  • Exils et territoires: le cinéma d'Amos Gitai, Serge Toubiana, Baptiste Piégay, Arte Editions / Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, 2003
  • Amos Gitai, Cinema, Politics, Aesthetics,Irma Klein, KM, Tel Aviv, 2003
  • Amos Gitai, Cinema forza di pace, Edited by Daniela Turco, Le Mani, Genova, 2002
  • The Films of Amos Gitai, a Montage, Edited by Paul Willemen, BFI Publishing, London, 1993
  • Amos Gitai, Edited by Alberto Farassino, Mostra Internazionale Riminicinema, Rimini, 1989


  1. ^ "IMDb Awards list". IMDb. Archived from the original on 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Film Festival : Cannes 99". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Conversation Amos Gitai / Peter Cowie". Amos Gitai official homepage. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Amos Gitai at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "Munio Weinraub Gitai Architect (1909-1970) | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Biography | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "House / La Maison | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Ramesh Jaura (1 June 2011). "IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters". Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Fred Camper, "Face to Face With History", Chicago Reader, 1989
  11. ^ Mansel Stimpson, "Amos Gitai Branches Out", What's on in London, 6 March 1991
  12. ^ "Berlin-Jerusalem | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ TV Guide Network New. "Kippur Review". Archived from the original on 28 May 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Archived 10 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Anderman, Nirit. "Amos Gitai exhibit on father opens in Paris - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News". Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Architekturmuseum der TU München [Exhibitions]". Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  25. ^ "MoMA | MoMA Presents: Amos Gitai's News from Home/News from House". Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 

Amos Gitai: Exile and Atonement, Ray Privett, Cinema Purgatorio, 2008.

External links[edit]