DESCRIPTION OF A MEMORY examines the complexities of Israel's history through the lens of Chris Marker's 1960 film DESCRIPTION OF A STRUGGLE (DESCRIPTION D'UN COMBAT), a portrait of the country made 13 years after its founding.
Marker went to Israel as an outsider, looking to discover the spirit of the young country through its "language of signs." He found a place whose unique moral and political obligations could provide a new, humane model of nationhood to the world.
In DESCRIPTION OF A MEMORY, director Dan Geva, an Israeli, explores what has happened in his homeland in the years since with a more critical eye, asking whether the promises Marker identified have been fulfilled. Structured by thirteen memories, the film is an open-ended, essayistic meditation on the distance between the ideals that fueled the creation of Israel and the realities of its history.
Some of Geva's memories come directly from Marker's film, and he tracks down Israelis who appeared in it to find how they have changed along with their country: a young Arab delivery boy, a group of kibbutzniks that includes Yitzhak Rabin's sister Rachel, and, centrally, the 13-year-old girl who Marker took as a symbol for the nation - a girl who "will never be Anne Frank."
Other memories are Geva's own. He recalls the young Palestinian subject of an earlier film he made who went on to become a suicide bomber. He portrays the daily experience of life inside the highly militarized, security-oriented state. And he probes his relationship with a lifelong friend who moved his family to an Israeli settlement on the Gaza Strip.
DESCRIPTION OF A MEMORY offers a multifaceted portrayal of both the dream and the reality of Israel.
"Apart from the inspiration and the homage, there is first the sheer beauty of the film itself, its unflinching pace, the perfection of the soundtrack and the boldness of the image. As for my film, with an immense generosity you (Dan Geva) extracted the few elements that could still make sense, and raised them to the level where it is possible to deal with all the essential themes of today."—Chris MarkerGrand Prize, 2007 RIDM International Documentary Film Festival (Canada)
Best Film, 2009 Temps d'images International Film Festival on Arts, Lisbon (Portugal)
Crossroads of Europe International Documentary Film Festival (Poland)
2008 Taipei Film Festival (Taiwan)
2008 DOK.Fest International Documentary Film Festival (2008) (Germany)
2008 Melbourne International Film Festival (Australia)
2006 Jerusalem International Film Festival (Israel)
"Geva's film wisely stops well short of resolving Israel's history into anything more tractable [than a living human being], but offers as its grace a means by which the signs of that history may at least be kept alive, mobile and newly provoking."—Catherine Lupton, Vertigo Magazine
"A rich, passionate meditation on history, change and identity...takes us on a journey into the heart of [a] divided, troubled country."—DOX Documentary Film Magazine