Give Peace a Chance | Chicago Reader

Give Peace a Chance

Four hour-long episodes made in 1994 for French TV by Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai explore at length the prospect for conciliation in the Middle East. Returning to his homeland after years in self-exile, Gitai is on a quest for candid opinions, interviewing a wide spectrum of Israelis and Palestinians. The first segment focuses on theater as a possible unifying force, following a children's theater director in a refugee camp and Arab and Jewish actresses in Jerusalem. In the second—the most fascinating of the four—Gitai travels to Gaza to talk to agricultural workers from both sides, who air their complaints but downplay the antagonism; the animosity toward Arabs stiffens in the responses Gitai gets from Jewish men on Jerusalem streets. In the third installment we hear from four writers—Amos Oz and Emile Habibi among them—filmed mostly in tight close-ups, pontificating or reciting their love-of-the-land poems. In the last episode Gitai goes to Cairo and Washington, D.C., where the fate of Israeli settlements in occupied territory is being brokered. He drops in on press conferences, exposing the pomposity of politics, and captures long monologues by politicians from Shimon Peres to Yitzhak Rabin. As usual, Gitai uses his charm to put people off guard, eliciting both revealing comments and telling looks. The first two hours are more poignant, if only because the subjects are ordinary folks who speak their minds. And unless you're passionately curious about the exasperating tug-of-war on the Israeli border, this thoughtful, utterly sincere appeal for rapprochement will seem too long. 240 min.

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