In Eliav Lilti’s new documentary, the stakes are higher, but the premise is more or less the same as when grandpa whips out the projector. With 8mm tapes dug up from attics and basements, Lilti cobbles together a personal history of the founding of the state of Israel as told by the people who lived through it and had the presence of mind to record the moment. Lilti’s intimate narrative mode makes sense given the very domestic scope of the story that he tells, one in which national identity and war are often the backdrop to weddings, births, deaths—the stuff of life that goes on regardless of political realities. Humanizing as it is, this kind of storytelling also runs the risk of obscuring the larger implications of acts of normalcy in a country that has been at war almost continually since its founding. One woman remembers growing up with Arab servants “because they were cheaper,” at the same time claiming that prior to 1967, Jews and Arabs in Israel largely got along. It’s not an old woman’s responsibility to edit her prejudices—she later claims that while the humanist in her would like to share the land, the pragmatist in her knows it’s impossible—but it is the onus of the filmmaker to frame subjects in a more critical way. As another of the unseen female narrators says, “the second generation didn’t know anything, because their parents didn’t talk about it.” Lilti tells a fine story, but he doesn’t always look closely enough at what he’s saying.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 10, 2013