Watch any family’s home movies, and you can see its fluctuations in every faded-Kodachrome beach trip and Christmas morning. Filmmaker Eliav Lilti takes this notion one step further: Watch scratchy, washed-out home movies taken by Israelis over several decades, and you can see the history of a young nation. Using reels of amateur footage rescued from closet floors and dusty attics, the documentarian assembles a loosely organized, ever-evolving look at life in the promised land: boats pulling into Palestine in the ’30s; the dismantling of a bomb placed in a café in 1948; a couple getting married in the Cave of Machpelah in 1967; a jet being shot down on the first day of the Yom Kippur War in ’73.
It’s a novel way to both chart the country’s changes from a ground-level view and avoid musty PBS-style doc-making, though already knowing Israel’s backstory backward and forward is a must. Narration from everyday citizens ranges from giggly recountings of how young they look in these vintage clips to insightful I-was-there observations about the Occupied Territories, but filling in the gaps about the who, what and where, much less the why, of it all isn’t on the menu. Still, there are textbooks for that. What Lilti’s cinematic mural does is remind us that the political is always personal—and in Israel’s case, vise versa.
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