The Arty Semite

Israel's Home Movies Aren't That Interesting

By Curt Schleier

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Believe it or not, there is something worse than being trapped in a friend’s living room while he unspools a year’s worth of home movies.

Courtesy Go2Films

What is that? Going to a theater and paying to watch home movies.

That’s the prospect facing audiences at “Israel: A Home Movie,” an Israeli film by Eliav Lilti that made its U.S. debut in New York on July 10.

Here’s the basic problem: These are home movies, and no matter how you frame them, they have the same problems all home movies do. You get often blurry shots of people posing or waving or walking into water or at a wedding or doing the things people do when a family member points a camera at them. It generally isn’t interesting.

It is also at times sloppily edited, with the same scene shown repeatedly. (Count how many times you see Cousin Danny twirling the propeller of what looks like a Piper Cub.)

That’s not to say there are no interesting segments. Some vacationers got footage of an Egyptian MIG streaking over the border into Israel at the start of the Yom Kippur War, and then footage of it being shot down by an Israeli jet as it fled the country.

There are also some jarring scenes of Arab prisoners being mistreated.

Narration is done by the people being filmed or by family members. One woman recalls her first lesson on the “real relationship” between Arabs and Israelis when she witnessed her father slap a Bedouin servant for being insolent.

Another recalls being told that a neighbor who committed suicide died of Buchenwald, which he thought was a disease. When he pressed to find out what that meant, it was explained that the woman who always walks her daughter to school and the woman who borrows chairs for the Passover Seder even though she is alone, also suffer from Buchenwald.

There are lighter moments. An 18-year-old about to go into combat admits “I masturbated a lot. I thought it would relax me.”

A woman sees her image as a girl and is thrilled: “I have boobs. Everyone said I was flat chested.”

More often than not, though, the narration has little to do with what the audience is viewing. And some of the things being said — the names of people and some locations — are so obscure it makes it seem as though you are watching family films, but you’re not part of the family.

Watch a clip from ‘Israel: A Home Movie’:


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