A 'Road' Not Fully Explored

By Nicole Arthur
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 13, 2005

In this earnest if emotionally unsatisfying documentary, Israeli filmmaker Danae Elon sets out to reestablish contact with Mahmoud "Musa" Obeidallah, a Palestinian man who was employed by her family for some 20 years. Obeidallah, a father of 11, cared for Elon, an only child, from the time she was 6 months old until she left for New York University. Though Elon's father, author Amos Elon, dismissively labels Obeidallah "a babysitter," it's clear he was much more than that. (At one point, Elon's mother admits that she could confidently leave her daughter in Obeidallah's care, but not her father's.)

As the film opens, Elon, who has not had contact with Obeidallah for 10 years, is trying to trace him by locating his sons, who now live in Paterson, N.J. In so doing, she's chagrined to find how little she actually knows about her caretaker -- she's unaware, for example, that "Musa" is a nickname used by only his employers. When she does find Obeidallah's sons, and later reunites with Musa himself, the stage is set for a provocative exchange of ideas and impressions. Except it never happens. The director, for one, is hamstrung by her own reticence. The one time she's asked a direct question about her relationship with Musa and his family, she says, "I don't know how to answer that." (Why not? She's making a movie about it!)

"Another Road Home" never really reveals the emotional core of Elon's relationship to Obeidallah or his to her. Elon presumably intends to send a positive message about individual relationships transcending politics, but the film leaves too much unsaid to do so. The foremost emotion captured here is liberal discomfort at having household help, albeit with a political overlay. But while the symbolism inherent in having a Palestinian employee iron her Israeli army uniform makes the filmmaker cringe, Obeidallah doesn't see it that way. "It was for you," he says simply.

Another Road Home (Unrated, 79 minutes) -- Contains nothing offensive. At the Avalon.

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