- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

“Another Road Home,” continuing its exclusive engagement at the Avalon, proves a revealing memoir about aspects of exile, estrangement and homesickness — specifically, across the fault lines that divide Israelis and Palestinians.

The film’s emotional eloquence owes more to the innate humanity of its principal subjects than the aptitude of the filmmaker, Danae Elon, who seems far too passive for her chosen medium. Nevertheless, the sneaky-vindictive side of her passivity nudges this chronicle in distinctive and haunting directions.

Miss Elon, born in Israel but evidently a transplant to New York City, is the only child of a prominent Israeli writer, Amos Elon. He and his American-born wife, Beth, seem to have forsaken their adopted country for retirement in Northern Italy. Their daughter functions on-screen as a curiously lackluster and needful social provocateur: the intermediary whose movie project, which might have remained a strictly private and undocumented sentimental journey, prompts a set of reunions. These encounters link her small immediate family, engendered by the Elons’ former housekeeper in Jerusalem for more than two decades, a remarkable patriarch named Musa Obeidallah.

When we encounter him, Musa is 76. He is obliged to finesse an arduous travel route from his hometown, Battir, in Palestine, through Jordan, then on by air to France and the United States. Several of his eight sons (he also has three daughters) have settled successfully in Paterson, N.J. Miss Elon tracks down the boys — all sent to America and educated here at their father’s insistence — as a preamble to the reunion with their father, the filmmaker’s beloved baby sitter and watch guard when she was very young.

The hovering implication is that Musa was a more accessible and comforting presence than her own father, a reporter-polemicist-historian with an international reputation to sustain. Amos Elon seems disinclined to argue the point; he concedes the comparisons in Musa’s favor.

Mr. Elon seems to have given up on a utopian dream of the late 1960s: a victorious Israel that would become a prosperous multiethnic state. He isn’t sacrificing much to admit that Musa, having toiled and schemed to secure havens for his children in America away from the snares of a war zone, is “a better man than we are.”

Amos Elon can boast a prolific literary output, but the human output of a Musa could be the more enduring heritage.

Resourceful, tenacious and genial, Musa does seem profoundly humbling. The children who became beneficiaries of his long-distance American dream appear to appreciate the sacrifice. They also think of Palestine as an abiding, ancestral homeland. To the extent that Musa can sum up the essentials for Miss Elon, too unresponsive herself to make conversation rewarding, he is a paragon of live-and-let-live decency.

Becoming aware of this sterling character might be more satisfying if it could be detached from the impression that Miss Elon is spiting her parents by reuniting with Musa and his kin. I’m not sure we need to be privy to the grievance subplot. The final rebuke clings to an overheard remark: Amos and Beth, receding from the camera along a wintry beach, concur that they have ceased thinking in terms of a “homeland.”

The timing is coincidental, but it’s odd to encounter farewell-to-embattled-Jerusalem refrains at the movies all of a sudden. It was the theme of Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” a few weeks back. Now it’s echoed by the Elons.

**1/2

TITLE: “Another Road Home”

RATING: No MPAA rating (Adult subject matter, with fleeting allusions to war in the Middle East and some elements of family conflict and estrangement)

CREDITS: Directed by Danae Elon. Photography by Andrew T. Dunn. Editing by Brian Gunnar Cole. Music by Peter Scherer

RUNNING TIME: 79 minutes

WEB SITE: www.anotherroadhome themovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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