In 2010 director Danae Elon, pregnant with her third child, felt a strong urge to move from New York, back to her native city Jerusalem. P.S. Jerusalem is the story of the family’s consequent five-year long transition and adjustment to a life in the politically charged city. It is a personal account of Elon’s three boys struggle to make sense of life in the foreign city, her husband’s attempts to find work as a photographer and above all, the political tension that is intertwined in the family’s everyday life.
“I think P.S. Jerusalem is more than a documentary, and maybe it is not even a film at all,” says Elon, “it’s a sketch, a diary, an honest reflection of what it means for a certain family to be searching for a home, within an identity that is laden with history and meaning, tragedy and triumph, idealism and disappointment.”
Five years in the making, the film has recently screened at London’s Human Rights Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival and TIFF, and marks the director’s fifth directorial effort after Never Again, Forever, Wild Mint , Another Road Home , and Partly Private.
Carrying a strong home movie style, the film depicts the family’s daily life in great detail, an ‘intrusion’ Elon, the mother and wife, at times found to be challenging. “I was walking a very thin line,” Elon says, “both personally and in regards to the ethics of filming small children that are not aware of the larger implications of what they are saying. I never felt that I crossed the line where the films was ‘too’ personal, and what I mean by that is that the personal moments I chose to disclose were always part of a larger political and social message, the moments never pertain only to us and our family they are always at least in my efforts an attempt on showing how the reality of Israel/Palestine affects us.”
Elon’s P.S. Jerusalem journey starts in a New York apartment where Elon resides with her family. Not much is said about the family’s time in the Big Apple but we do know that for Elon, it “does not feel like home”.
Shot by Elon on a Panasonic HD camera and edited in Final Cut Pro 7 (by Sophie Farkas Bolla), the film is heavily influenced by the director’s late father, the writer Amos Elon, and includes conversations between him and Danae recorded before his passing. A famous critic of the country’s politics the disillusioned Amos ended up leaving Israel in protest and spending his last years in Italy.
To his daughter, the personal is undoubtedly a political journey. “I never quite understand the separation that people make between the political and the personal,” she explains, “our lives are conditioned by the reality that surrounds us. We can categorise right over wrong by separating the two, but every action is taken by a human being, someone who works within a system that is created by other human beings..so for me the most profound expression of a political reality is a personal one.”
P.S. Jerusalem’s first screening, which was at the Opening Night of a festival in Israel’s Cinema South, proved to be very telling for Elon. “I had no idea how the audience would react,” she says, “but as the film started and I began to hear people’s reactions both of laughter and at times of tears, I knew I had found an audience, at least in part. The fact that I was able to transmit an emotion and create one in others made the entire experience worth it.”
Alongside P.S. Jerusalem, Elon has been working on her as of yet untitled sixth directorial venture which she considers “a real film”. “It is the story of a Greek Orthodox Patriarch who was accused of selling land to Settlers in the Old City of Jerusalem” she explains, “he gets demoted and as a consequence is locked in his room for over 11 years. The story of the film attempts to find out the truth about what happened to him and enters a mysterious and fascinating world of monasticism” in both Jerusalem and Greece.
“Making film is making sense of the moments we share as human beings,” concludes Elon, “touching upon the essence of what drives us to be, struggle, desire and become. I look for the truth and when I find it – subjectively, she adds – I see beauty. Sharing this with others is what drives me as a filmmaker.”