October 11, 1950
Filmmaker Amos Gitai, known for documentaries and features on the Middle East, the Israeli-Arab conflict and Holocaust memory in Europe, is born to architect Munio Weinraub and teacher Efratia Margalit in Haifa.
At least 10 of his films have competed at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or, recognizing the best film of the festival.
Gitai studies architecture at the Technion and earns a doctorate in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, after interrupting his studies in 1973 to serve in a rescue unit during the Yom Kippur War. A Syrian missile shoots down his helicopter on his birthday and nearly kills him. But using an 8mm camera his mother gave him, Gitai films several of his experiences and exercises. These short, experimental films are his introduction to the movie world.
In 1980, Gitai makes “Bait” (House), a full-length documentary meant for Israeli television. The film, which describes the attachment of Palestinians to their land, is the first of a trilogy of on the same house in West Jerusalem. Israeli television refuses to show the film.
In 1985, he makes “Esther,” his first full-length feature film, which is presented at Cannes and is the first part of his “Exile” trilogy. He releases “Kippur,” based on his memories of the Yom Kippur War, in 2000 and shows it in competition at Cannes, where it is awarded the distinction of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
Gitai’s work has been presented in major retrospectives in the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art and the Lincoln Center in New York, and the British Film Institute in London.