“Gitaï wants this house to become both something very symbolic and very concrete, to become a character. One of the most beautiful things that film can ever accomplish: people looking at the same thing and seeing different things. And being moved by this vision.”
– serge daney
Libération, March 1, 1982
Amos Gitaï has been documenting a single house in West Jerusalem for over four decades to narrate the history of a complex region through various artistic forms. His projects started with a documentary trilogy shot over 25 years: Bait [House] (1980), A House in Jerusalem (1998), and News from Home / News from House (2005). In these films the architectural space reveals a political state.
Bait is Amos Gitaï’s first film, shot in 1980 immediately after he returned from Berkeley where he had completed a Ph.D. in architecture. This black and white documentary shot on 16mm film traces the changing owners and occupants of a house starting with the original owner, a Palestinian doctor who fled the house in 1948. The Israeli government then confiscated the house and rented it under an “absentee” law to an Algerian Jewish immigrant couple. At the time of the filming an Israeli professor of economy bought the house. He decided to transform it from a single-story house to a three-story villa. But to achieve the construction he had to hire Palestinians from the refugee camp and use stones from the mountains of Hebron. The architectural site of the House, therefore, become at the same time a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship as well as a metaphor for Jerusalem. The film becomes an open stage for different occupants, workers, and developers to share their biographies and visions. The broadcast of the 1980 film BaitHouse was banned at the time by the Israeli television.
edited by juliana de arruda sampaio
Amos Gitaï (Haifa, Israel, 1950. Lives in Paris, France) is a filmmaker who has created over ninety works. His oeuvre has been the subject of several retrospectives at Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), MoMA, Lincoln Center (New York, USA), and British Film Institute (London, UK). His films have been showcased at the Cannes Festival (France) and the Biennale Cinema (Venice, Italy).