P.S Jerusalem [2015]: In this thought-provoking documentary, Danae Elon returns to her birthplace, Jerusalem, with her family, seeking to begin a new life there.  However, political tensions have a deep effect on their private lives.

The Private is Political.  Danae remarks at the beginning of the film that her private life was always deeply political.  Her father, the late Amos Elon, was a left-wing journalist who was always deeply critical of the Israeli regime, eventually leaving the country in protest.  Danae remarks about how he was reluctant for her to have right-wing friends when growing up, and so her life has always been deeply tied to the politics of Israel.  As they move back to Jerusalem, the impossibility of isolating her children from the Israel-Palestine conflict becomes apparent.  Some passages of the film resemble peaceful home footage but have a sinister undertone, such as when one of the boys picks up and begins to play with a gasmask.

Sins of the Father.  One of the most affecting scenes involves her sons being guided through the streets of Jerusalem by their friend.  In one neighbourhood, they are instructed to speak solely in Hebrew, whilst in the next neighbourhood, they are told to speak solely in Arabic, for fear of being abused by those that hear them.  Later, Elon is abused for being left-wing and is assaulted in the streets.  The effects of the violence on the family are profound.  The father, Philip, finds the racism to be deeply insidious and political and wants to leave after three years in the country.  His concerns are fair: one of his children claims that he wishes that he wasn’t a Jew, and their boys are often disturbed by the sounds of sirens which mean impending attacks.

Coherence.  It may be tempting to criticise the film as being incoherent.  One of the closing passages shows Elon’s Jewish son embracing an Arabic friend, who he refuses to leave, such is their affection for one another.  This might fly in the face of the deeply ingrained racism explored throughout the film.  Similarly, the film itself often tries to explore the home life of the Elon family, whilst also trying to cover political tensions within Jerusalem- which seems like a very broad scope of issues to explore.  However, this is a strength of the documentary, not a weakness.  It portrays a deeply complicated situation, without attempting to present an easy answer.

P.S Jerusalem explores the effects of the Israel-Palestine conflict on many levels of society and confronts the audience of the significant, long-term effects of living in a deeply racist environment. Though the film is not easy to watch, it is certainly profound.

P.S Jerusalem
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