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Potosi, the Journey
<i>Fragments - Jerusalem</i>

Potosi, the Journey
"Diamonds in the darkness of the movie theater. "Fragments o Jerusalem" - Ron Havilio's monumental film, the fruit of ten years' labor - is a magical, delicate, rich and precise film. With a master's touch, it blends personal, family, national and universal materials into a varied and wonderful mosaic of the different aspects of Jerusalem life."
Nachman Ingbar, Yedioth Aharanoth, Israel, July 1996

"This history of Jerusalem crosses time and space to act like a mirror; thus the spectator is forced to reflect and wonder what the meaning of family and home really is. This is the universal question that we are asked to confront. Spending six hours with this film is a meditation on the pursuit of lasting human happiness."
Watabe Minoru, 1997 YIDFF catalogue, Japan

“A phenomenal work of structural ambition and profound emotion, Fragments - Jerusalem is likely to stand as a model of acute documaking for those willing to throw themselves into the most difficult issues of the day, and of yesterday.”
Ken Eisner, Variety, October 5-11, 1998

“This endlessly digressive exploration is film as archeology, unearthing the multiple layers of history and memory in a city that has violently changed shape and meaning through the ages. Walls and towers rise and fall, hubs of activity become no-go zones, then flourish again. Havilio helps us make sense of it all by constantly guiding us back to key landmarks, like the Mamila district and the Jaffa Gate. His film has the richness of a novel, and of autobiography - it’s very much a self-portrait of a man who lives life through the camera lens. Let’s hope programmers don’t take fright at its formidable length. This enthralling film should be seen more widely.”
Jonathan Romney, The Guardian, UK, August 31, 1998

"This is a great challenge that one lone man has accepted, a man who is a photographer, director, producer and who has transformed the camera and editing table into the pencil and notebook of a poet."
David Schutz, writer, in Yerushalayim

"In a world where everything is merchandise, superficiality and vulgarity, you suddenly arrive at a place where everything is turned upside down. The making of this film reminds me of the building of a cathedral. The difference being that in Europe an entire city would build it over a period of years. Here, Ron builds a cathedral alone. A man with a dream who succeeded to give birth in an unusual way, outside of the womb.”
Michael Lev-Tov, filmmaker, Kol Hair

“At once home movie and city symphony, a family photo album and a national history, Ron Havilio’s six-hour Fragments - Jerusalem is a monument in time that excavates a space. The streets, ancient or modern, are filled with memories and the memories of memories... As in the city itself, all periods co-exist. Scenes typically combine past and present. Fragments - Jerusalem is profoundly anachronistic; among other things, it preserves the sense that motion pictures are a medium of (and not only for) preservation. Film is also a sublimated form of prayer- or study.
Jim Hoberman, Film Comment, January 1998

Fragments - Jerusalem is like a trip. One can feel the powerful stream of history, its meanderings and its tributaries, and the audience is pulled in. Maybe this is the greatest madness: the attempt to create some order in the puzzle that is our life.”
Martina Knoben, Sueddeitsche Zeitung, February 19, 1998

“Ron Havilio’s mammoth personal essay Fragments - Jerusalem beautifully expands the bounds of non-fiction filmmaking.”
Michael Fox, San Francisco Weekly October 7-13, 1998

“Beginning with his recollection of the Mamila district, which has not withered the years, and continuing into the second cycle, with his grandmother’s funeral, the film’s tumultuous, violent world of Jerusalem is spread out with the implied vastness of a TV miniseries. This multipurpose, placid scrapbook reinvents film as a kind of religious event and succeeds miraculously.”
Edward Crouse, San Francisco Bay Guardian, April 22, 1998

“The film is a finely blended mosaic of artifacts and interviews, home movies, postcards, archival materials, anecdotes, paintings and photographs, that the camera wakes to life, so that the resulting film is as much about the self-reflexive language of cinema as it is about his family or Jerusalem. This grand but lyrical documentary is well worth the long viewing time.”
Im Hyun-Ock, 1998 Pusan IFF catalogue, Korea

“Ron Havilio’s Fragments - Jerusalem is one of the most important films of this Berlinale. It raises questions not only on the essence of cinema- the project of establishing a memory of history- but also on the peculiar way the Germans deal with memory since World War II. Documentary filmmaker Ron Havilio is a master per excellence at safeguarding memory. The presentation of this research is exemplary. During 6 hours there is not one moment of boredom.”
Marcia Pally, Berliner Zeitung, February 21, 1998

“To create such a work of art about Jerusalem is to give the world a great gift.”
Hans-Jorg Rother, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 13, 1998

"Fragments - Jerusalem follows a Jewish approach to history in the way it challenges the boundaries between past and present, highlighting instead the links and continuities that keep events meaningful and alive. Havilio's film is a commemorative act that places identity within a context that gives it meaning.
Florence Jacobowitz, Cineaction # 48, Toronto

"Havilio's project consists of filming his environs, respecting jointly the chronology of the city's history and that of the making of the film (ten years of his life lived with his wife and three daughters). Havilio mixes up the two temporalities and refuses to assume simply the role of the chronicler and the diarist. It is the hybrid blend between the two, which interests him. Selected this year at the Berlin Forum and awarded in Yamagata, Japan, his film is a kind of personal voyage around the visible and invisible traces, which Jerusalem is offering. Furthermore, in the end, the film itself becomes a trace. An ambiguous trace, because it is at the same time imposing (six hours) and fragile (a weaving of moments stolen from ephemera: "In a few minutes, my daughters will run to catch the bus to school."). Havilio dives into the interstices of memory, in a manner, which could resemble Chris Marker's: for once, in Israel, memory is not a synonym for tradition nor the abusive recuperation of people's history in the sense of a land justification. Ron Havilio is not delivering a message. Most of the time he is silent, he is not manipulating. His idea is that the world has a meaning, but invisible. With time, the meaning appears, but can disappear if cinema is manipulating it…. The man knows all the stones of Jerusalem. His house in Ein Karem is a haven of tranquility. He was for me, a precious guide, and I hope for all those who will discover this autumn the most exciting part of Israeli cinema."
Matthieu Orlean, "Fragments d'images venues du cinema israelien",
Cahiers du Cinema, n.528, October 1998

"The oeuvre of Havilio constitutes one of the most intriguing documentaries of the last decade."
Guido Convents, Cine Media, Belgium, January 1998

"…the documentaries that have often interested me are not documentaries on biographical subjects or people, they are much more conceptual. And it seems that conceptual documentaries are not alive and well right now. You have a few, like Ron Havilio's film, Fragments - Jerusalem, which we screened this year. It is the kind of film which should be in every documentary festival in the world, because it really does stretch the boundaries of the form and try to do something which is very interesting with it. I wish that there were more films of that challenging nature that were made. But there seem to be fewer people who want to go into documentary filmmaking. I think that so many of them have been co-opted into making documentaries for television, which have their own codes and structures. That's OK but I don’t think they say very much cinematically anymore."
Piers Handling (Director of the Toronto Int. Film Festival), Interviewed in DOX
Documentary Film Quarterly, Copenhagen, December 1998

"Perhaps you wonder now whether it was all worth it. Whether the film has sunk out of sight, has gone without ripples. I think Proust may have thought the same thing with A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. This is a cycle of films which will grow in stature as the passage of time makes its point of view in time and magisterial vision become clear. I believe that you have made the Swan's Way of the cinema, and that this will gradually become evident. This is a cellar of wonderful wine laid down for future generations who will themselves fall in love with this lovingly portrayed family."
Letter from Michael Rabiger, filmmaker and university professor, Chicago, May 2000

"A masterpiece of the documentary, a testimony without equal, from one of the most special and enigmatic cities in the history of humanity…. Fragments - Jerusalem is a unique and rare work with no comparison. Even not with the magnificent Shoah (1985) the nine and a half hour film by the French Claude Lanzmann… With mastery, Havilio walks in between the personal … and the history of the city, as the images from the present are integrated in the reconstitution of the past, always with extreme poetic delicacy, sensibility, plastic beauty, first-rate soundtrack. A work which is also an elegy to cinema… “To create such a work of art about Jerusalem is to give the world a great gift.” wrote the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, during the Berlin Festival. And this is no exaggeration. Shown in the recent Toronto Festival, the film provoked equal reactions. The public viewed with much attention the 7 chapters (from 30 to 60 minutes each, with breaks for the public to stand up, eat, and drink), which tells step-by-step the trajectory of the Havilio family, mixed with the stories that marked the history of Jerusalem…
The profound humanism of Fragments - Jerusalem, the voyage that the film is making in time and space, between the individual world and the more general history, the search for happiness by people in political conditions which are sometimes very difficult, (all these) without doubt give a meaningful example to the possibility of co-existence between oppositions. This is the most clear, deep, and true example that only art is able to offer."
Helena Salem, O Estado de S. Paulo, Brazil, January 4, 1999

"Ron Havilio's six hour film, Fragments - Jerusalem, is as absorbing and contemplative as a tea ceremony. You have to sip it slowly, sink into it's rhythm. But once you are immersed in Havilio's world, it is hard to tear yourself away from the hypnotic story that the Israeli filmmaker weaves about his family and city. By the time Havilio has slowly excavated layers of historical and personal detritus, you feel that you know every stone of the walled citadel, every tear shed at the Wailing Wall, every wave of immigration through the Jaffa Gate. What passes through the lens into the spectator is a profound sense of loss. Havilio makes clear what is gone forever: people and memories, images and houses, the sounds and the smells. As he says, "This is more than a film about Jerusalem - although you can learn quite a lot about Jerusalem - it is a film about what we are doing here and how long are we going to stay here. It is a meditation on time."
Helen Greenwood, Marathon journey to the soul of a city,
The Sydney Morning Herald, November 12, 1998

"I feel a strange fascination with ruins, stones, and the silent world of the past," says Ron Havilio… From an almost unlimited quantity of archival materials, of photos, a very personal portrait (six hour) of the holy city is constructed… Havilio, an intellectual traveler, walks around the alleys of the Old City with his camera along the stone walls, tracing the past, the multi-layered history of the city… The impressions from past travelers with images and original photographs, changes sometimes suddenly into a scene from the present. The present is always revealed as saturated with the past. Unseen threads seem to tie the history of the stone to the history of the people whose fate Havilio is documenting through the example of his family. Slowly, slowly, without you noticing, the fragments assemble into a portrait, unique by it's personal quality, a portrait of Jerusalem documented through the mute stones. He follows the traces of his family 'til the threshold of his house, his wife and daughters. A poetic tranquility glides over the different landscapes, one following the other, seemingly without order, while Havilio comments as the narrator in the background."
C. Niedermeier, The language of stone, Der Viennale Standard, Austria, October 1998

"Never before I have seen a documentary actually being so prone to a movie, and never before I have seen a movie being - in its essence - so moving. With the "rainy and cloudy" mood and melancholia of these fragments you have, without any doubt, ingeniously carried much light into this dark place Austria… The film music reminded me of my parents' stay in Istanbul, when I was still unborn."
Letter from Elevit Uzunkaya, Vienna, December 1998

The narrator, Ron Havilio, reveals everything to the viewer. In one scene he admits, and apologizes sorrowfully, that the sounds shot during that scene were damaged… By being so honest and true to the audience, I felt belonged to the Havilio family. By inviting the viewers to his family we feel sheltered, and begin caring. Rather than bringing out emotion from the film's events, the emotions come from the viewer; a daunting task for any director… Some people try to look deep for meanings and definitions when, sometimes, they are strikingly obvious and simple. I am a casualty of this type of behavior and often oversee the simple things. It is obvious that Ron Havilio spent his whole life making this film. He spent all of his and his family's energy in creating something that is so innocent and pure that helped me realize something grand. These are the reasons I watch films.
Review from the internet, a student in Mathematics from Toronto, Canada, October 6, 1998

"Fragments - Jerusalem is not a perfect film. By its very nature, perfection is beyond its grasp. Yet its formal failings are part of his charm, and despite the film unusual length, a viewer's attention seldom flags. It may not be too much of an overstatement to suggest that Ron Havilio has crafted the first Israeli avant-garde masterpiece."
George Robinson, The Jewish Week, New York, 17 March 2000

"What anchors this lovely documentary is the director's low-key humanism; what propels it is his intense, infectious curiosity. Fragments - Jerusalem is a vessel for Havilio's passionate study of history, and architecture, and geography, and ethnography, and comparative religion."
Gerald Peary, Boston Phoenix, 31 March 2000

"Havilio's mesmerizing, intensely personal film, which took more than 10 years to make, has tried to save some of the layers upon layers of Jerusalem's sad memory. So many lives have passed through that gate (Jaffa Gate). Through interviews, home movies, postcards, archival material, anecdotes, paintings and photographs, going backwards and forwards in time from the Old City to modern Jerusalem, looking at each member of his family, when they came, why they came, and how it was to live in Jerusalem, Havilio's aim was to rescue a fascinating, evanescent world from oblivion. "The whole film is a fight between life and death, construction and destruction," he says.
Anna King Murdoch, Keeper of the Gate, The Age, Australia, 21 November 1998

"The business card reads Ron Havilio: "Filmmaker and Aikido Instructor." The film is the extraordinary, six-hour Fragments - Jerusalem. Havilio, the man who made it and who has been showered with critical acclaim for it, is sitting comfortably in a place few know about at the Toronto International Film Festival, deep in the basement, away from the glamour: the film revision department, where prints are made ready to go through the projector. Havilio likes it here. The people who work here are filmmakers in the independent community, painters, and students. Havilio, in his baggy courderoys and sandals, looks like one of them. He has dropped by and stayed to talk with the depot's chief, Martin Heath, and with the other workers. The six hour film is on large reels, some of them so overfull that the celluloid spills off and has to be taped into place. There is a hand written note strapped to the reel, advising the revisor: "Sorry! The film is too big for the reel!"
Barb Mainguy, POV Magazine, Canada, October 15-21, 1998

Negative reviews:
There were almost no "bad" reviews on Fragments – Jerusalem. Still, I am bringing here extracts from two such articles. The one from the New York Times had a particularly devastating effect, as it came out the day when the film was about to be shown theatrically, at the Lincoln Center in New York This article was also for many years the first reference coming up when researching in Google Fragments – Jerusalem:

"Mr. Havilio, who also lived in Paris, Istanbul and Africa (his father was at one point Israel's consul general) while growing up, had some wonderful raw material for a film or mini-series, but that is exactly what it remains. ''Fragments: Jerusalem'' desperately needs shaping and focusing. Despite the division into seven sections, the story has no apparent structure. Mr. Havilio, who narrates the English version (there are English subtitles when the subject on screen speaks Hebrew or French), often switches from a historical narrative about his homeland to home movies, largely of his wife and his daughters. This could have worked, but the connections between subjects are often unclear. At one point, Mr. Havilio films his wife wiggling her toes. There are some very pretty pictures of Jerusalem, past and present, in the film. The snowstorm in Chapter 5 is particularly gorgeous. And the scenes with ancient structures in their contemporary surroundings as cars whiz by, contrasted with earlier photographs or sketches, work nicely. But it takes more than 16-millimeter travelogue photography, stream of consciousness and good intentions to make a meaningful documentary, and that is all ''Fragments: Jerusalem'' has to offer."
Anita Gates, A Long Look at Israel (And at His Wife's Toes),
The New York Times, March 22, 2000

"The name of the film, "Fragments", points to its weakness. The film has no subject, no message, just an unexplained sequence of still pictures and landscapes, as if the creator fell in love with his photographic abilities and cannot resist filming the fireworks on Independence Day 1988 or an army exercise on Mamila Street in 1987. Even the pictures of the rescue of the family car that got stuck on a road in Cameroon found their way into the film. What is the connection and what is the meaning of all this?"
Orit Shochat, Ha'aretz, September 27, 1996