If Danae Elon’s documentary, “Here, Not There,” were merely brave, it would have revealed Jerusalem’s fault lines and left us with political disdain. But Elon’s film is brave and also wise, revealing Jerusalem by exposing her family’s complex hopes for the place over three turbulent years—beginning with her own longing to return to the city of her childhood in spite of her late father’s warnings. The film chronicles the career of a tortured enthusiasm: that of her husband, whose decency holds up as his patience runs out, her mother, whose support is as uncompromising as her political doubts, and especially that of her eldest son, whose daily struggles to fit into a bicultural school, and learn to be friends in both Hebrew and Arabic, becomes a metaphor for the city that could be—and, tragically, is not. None of this is meant to imply that Elon leaves us without a political standard. In a way, the most poignant proof we have for the necessity of liberalism, in Israel, and Palestine, too, is the idiosyncrasy of people in their families. It is impossible to see Elon’s film and not be moved by its domestic truths and ambient pressures. It is also impossible not to think about the political protections we need to make space for our precious, individual struggles. A little masterpiece.
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