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 (Hebrew: עמוס גיתאי‎; born 11 October 1950) is an Israeli auteur filmmaker. He is mainly known for making documentaries and feature films, surrounding the Middle East and Jewish-Arab conflict. 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]

Early life[edit]

Gitai was born in 1950 in Haifa to Munio Weinraub and Efratia Margalit.[2][3][4] His father was an architect of the pre-war Bauhaus movement in Germany.[5] His parents changed the family name to Gitai. Amos holds a degree in architecture from the Technion in Haifa and a PhD in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War interrupted his architecture studies as he was called up to reserve service as part of a helicopter rescue crew.[6] While serving, he shot 8mm footage of the fighting, claiming this served as his entry into the world of film making.[7] On his birthday, Gitai's helicopter was shot down by a Syrian missile on the Golan Heights.[8] This experience had a great effect on his life and forms the basis of his film Kippur, an autobiographical depiction of his war service.[9]

Film career[edit]

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

Gitai began his career directing documentaries. In 1979 he directed his first full-length Israeli film, Home (1979). The film was rejected by the only television channel in Israel, however, it was screened at the Berlin and the Rotterdam International Film Festivals.[10] His next film, Field Diary (1982), which takes a critical look at the Lebanon War, was rejected also. This led to Gitai leaving Israel for France, where he would continue his career for the next decade.[11] While in France, Gitai directed a series of fiction films such as Esther, Golem, and The Spirit of Exile. He also directed Berlin-Jerusalem (1989) in this period; the film 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.[12][13] The film represented Israel in Venice Festival Film.[14]

In 1993, after Yitzhak Rabin's victory in the elections and the Oslo Accords, Gitati returned to Israel and continued his career.

Kadosh (2000) was criticized in Israel for its anti-religious themes and proved a success overseas; earning a score of 70/100 from review aggregator Metacritic, indicating "Generally favourable" reviews;[15] and an 89% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.[16]

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.[17] Negative criticism was concentrated on such details as the absence burnt tanks in the battlefield, that the Syrian soldiers are not seen at all, and the repetition of a shot of a ruined mosque used throughout the film.[18][19] The film received positive acclaim, gaining a score of 75 on review aggregator Metacritic and a 79% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[15][16]

Kedma (2001) was a retelling of Israel's War of Independence, in which Gitai sought to revise what he saw as many of the myths surrounding Israel's creation. It received mostly negative reviews: earning a score of 36 on Metacritic and a 31% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[15][16] It went largely ignored in his native country.[20]

Alila (2002) is a tragicomedy set in a Tel Aviv apartment house, featuring an Altman-esque array of characters and an all-star Israeli cast. It received mixed to negative reviews, with a score of 57 on Metacritic and a 41% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[15][16]

Amos Gitai with Hana Laszlo and Natalie Portman on the set of Free Zone, 2005

In recent years, Gitai has directed Promised Land (2004) about the trafficking of women in Israel and Free Zone (2005) with Israeli-American star Natalie Portman. Although the latter won the Best Actress Award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival for Israeli actress Hanna Laslo,[21][22] it was not well received critically. The film was given a score of 51 on Metacritic and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 26% "rotten."[15][16]

In his film Disengagement (2007), Gitai brings together a young Israeli man (Liron Levo) and his sister (Juliette Binoche) who lives in France with their father; they rediscover each other at the same time Israel is disengaging from Gush Katif. The cast includes Jeanne Moreau, Barbara Hendricks, Dana Ivgy, Uri Klausner, Israel Katorza and others. The film completes the Border Trilogy, with Promised Land and Free Zone.

One day you'll understand (Plus tard tu comprendras, 2008) is the story of a French writer tracing the story of his Jewish mother (Jeanne Moreau) and her family during World War II. The film is based on an autobiographical book by Jerome Clement, president of the Arte television channel and one of the leading figures of French culture. The film was relatively well received, receiving a score of 65% "fresh" from Rotten Tomatoes.[16]

Carmel (2009) was based on Gitai's personal memories and combines extracts from the diary and letters of Gitai's mother, Efratia (1909–2004), with interviews of family members.[23] All the Gitai family members (Efratia, Keren, Ben, Rivka and Amos) participated in the film as well as actors Keren Mor, Makram Khoury and Hillel Lusky. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a weighted average score of 40% "rotten," indicating an unfavourable reception.[16]

Roses à crédit (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.[24] The film shot entirely in France.

Gitai's films are not always popular with Israeli audiences; Kadosh and Kippur were well received, but his other films have not always found an audience.[25] Some Israeli critics see Gitai's style as too "European" for Israel, and Village Voice critics called him "the Israeli nouvelle vague."[26] Indeed, Gitai's films are considerably more popular in Europe whereas he is still somewhat of an outsider on the Israeli scene. Some Israeli critics also claim that Gitai's presentation of Israeli reality is often too simplistic for the Israeli audience and that it is an aspect of his films that non-Israeli audiences might take at face value.[citation needed]

To date Amos Gitai has created over 80 titles throughout 38 years. In 2008 Amos Gitai receives the Leopard of Honor at Locarno International Film Festival. This life-achievement award is offered in recognition of the work of renowned directors whose creativity has had an unquestionable impact on contemporary cinema.[27]


Amos Gitai and Henri Alekan, shooting Esther, 1986.
Ophrah Shemesh and Hanna Schygulla in Golem, l'esprit de l'exil, 1991

Exhibitions, performances[edit]

  • 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[28]
  • 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[29]
  • 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[30]
  • 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. ^ "The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Biography | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "Kippur | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Conversation Amos Gitai / Peter Cowie | The Films of Amos Gitai". 2 December 2007. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "House / La Maison | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Ramesh Jaura (1 June 2011). "IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters". Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Fred Camper, "Face to Face With History", Chicago Reader, 1989
  13. ^ Mansel Stimpson, "Amos Gitai Branches Out", What's on in London, 6 March 1991
  14. ^ "Berlin-Jerusalem | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "Amos Gitai Profile at". Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Amos Gitai". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  17. ^ TV Guide Network New. "Kippur Review". Archived from the original on 28 May 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  18. ^ "ynet "כיפור" - של מי המלחמה הזאת? - תרבות ובידור". 20 June 1995. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "Review of Kippur, a film directed by Amos Gitai, by Fred Camper, a Chicago Reader movie review with added frame enlargements and links". 5 January 2001. Archived from the original on 27 October 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  20. ^ Dupont, Joan (17 May 2002). "Director brings birth of Israel to Cannes". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Free Zone". Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  22. ^ "Amos Gitai | American Cinematheque". Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  23. ^ "Carmel | The Films of Amos Gitai". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  24. ^ Archived 10 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ J. Hoberman (31 October 2000). "Veterans of Disorder, page 1, Movies, New York". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  26. ^ David Martinon. "Le Blog de David Martinon / David Martinon's Blog". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  27. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (8 April 2008). "Locarno to honor Amos Gitai". Variety. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ "Architekturmuseum der TU München [Exhibitions]". Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  30. ^ "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]