News From Home/News From House is the 2006 installment in Amos Gitai’s documentary series that also includes House (1980) and A House in Jerusalem (1998). Revolving around property that once belonged to a Palestinian family and was later taken over by Israelis, the films juxtapose the Israeli and Palestinian diasporas by tracking the original owner’s descendants, the construction workers, and the current occupants over the years. Given that the filmmaker once studied architecture, the documentaries are replete with construction details. No sweat if you’re unfamiliar with the first two parts of the series; seemingly mindful of the earlier films’ obscurity (House was banned by Israeli television), Gitai here supplies extensive scenes from the previous chapters as well as his own voiceover narration in heavily accented English. Clearly, the subject matter is close to Gitai’s heart, and the humanist message that people should peacefully coexist is quite evident in all three of the films. (He even revisited the theme in dramatic form in the 2007 feature Disengagement.) The House documentaries certainly demonstrate Gitai’s evolution as a filmmaker, his techniques getting glossier with each successive part. But News From Home/News From House never arrives at a real polemical moment to rival the ignorant American interviewee spouting revisionist history in A House in Jerusalem. Gitai considers these films as archaeological projects, but the House trilogy falls short of achieving the same level of profundity as Michael Apted’s Up series, a comparable chronicle of social change.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 22, 2008