States of Unbelonging

States of Unbelonging

63 min. color 2005
Available on Beta SP and DVD
Directed by Lynne Sachs
In collaboration with Nir Zats

For two and a half years, Lynne Sachs worked to write and visualize this cine-essay on the violence of the Middle East by exchanging personal letters and images with an Israeli friend. The core of her experimental meditation on war, land, the Bible, and filmmaking is a portrait of Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker and mother killed in a terrorist act on a kibbutz near the West Bank. Without taking sides or casting blame, the film embraces Revital's story with surprising emotion, entering her life and legacy through home movies, acquired film footage, news reports, interviews, and letters.

Selected Reviews:

"What separates each of us from the other? Director Lynne Sachs explores this complex question and others in her haunting new film States of Unbelonging, a beautiful poetic journey that searches for how one person understands another across cultural, historical and political divides.

The two people in question are Sachs herself and Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker killed by terrorists. Like Sachs, Ohayon was a mother, a filmmaker, a teacher and a Jew. Though she never met Ohayon, Sachs examines the onslaught of modern media that united both artists, mediated through the letters, messages and phone calls exchanged with Israeli friend, Nir Zats. Deeply interested in history's histories and raptures, Sachs embarks on a private journey to ponder issues of identity, violence in the Middle East, and the hope for union, culminating in an unforgettable visit with Ohayon's grieving family.

Intensely personal yet thoroughly accessible, States of Unbelonging is a profound meditation about living in an unstable world, with the personal densely blurred with the historical. Drawing on a wide variety of forms, from TV coverage to phone messages and film, Sachs has created a challenging, invigorating film-essay that could rank with the multi-layered ruminations of Chris Marker. 

Fernando F. Croce
Cinequest: San Jose Film Festival

At a time when conflicts scar the globe, the experimental States of UnBelonging seeks to personalize the violence by considering a single death: that of Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker living on a kibbutz near the West Bank, who was killed-along with her two young children-by a terrorist. The visually arresting film's layered and refracted images drawn from television news and home videos shot in both Israel and New York, where director Sachs lives, attest to the complex process of "accompanying" a stranger in her death. Sachs and former student Nir Zats, who lives in Tel Aviv, seek to fill in details of Ohayon's life and the hostile landscape where she lived and died. Drawing on the Bible, Allen Ginsberg's poetry, and interviews with Ohayon's family, the film is a three-year search for a person beyond reach, a meditation on things one cannot know, a moving kaddish for uncertain, dangerous times.

Kathy Geritz
Film Curator, Pacific Film Archive
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum

Surprisingly beautiful, like the embattled countryside it depicts. War, creativity, beauty -- it's a depressingly frequent concatenation, but Sachs makes it sing without glorifying death.

George Robinson
The Jewish Weekly
Feb. 2006

States of Unbelonging

States of Unbelonging