Amos Gitai
Gitai describes himself as “an architect, the son of an architect, who makes films.” Photo by Lauren Tushan
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Kippur
A scene in Gitai's "Kippur," which examined his own experience in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Amos Gitai, one of Israel's most prolific directors, will present a different kind of picture at the prestigious Les Recontres d’Arles photography festival in Arles, France. His still photography will be exhibited alongside well-known photographers from across the world, including American Philip-Lorca diCorcia and German Thomas Ruff.

The festival, which runs from July 2 until September 23, is considered one of the world's most important photography shows. It is the brainchild of curator François Hébel and Rémy Fenzy, the director of France's national school of photography.

Gitai has described himself as “an architect, the son of an architect, who makes films.” He initially chose to follow in the footsteps of his father, Israeli architect Munio Gitai Weinraub (1909-1970), and earned a degree in architecture from Haifa's prestigious Technion Institute and a Ph.D. in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1972, the year before the Yom Kippur War, Gitai began experimenting with an 8 mm camera. When the war broke out and he was drafted, he used that same camera to document the action. The war was a formative event for Gitai, and when it ended he abandoned his pursuit of architecture and undertook a career in film instead.

One of his feature films, “Kippur” (2000), was based on his experiences during the war. Critics heralded the film's grit and lack of sentimentality.

In a nod to his architectural past, Gitai’s exhibition for the French festival is entitled "Architecture of Memory." It spans four decades of his photographic work and will be showcased in the Preacher’s Church, tne of several 12th-century cathedrals hosting exhibitions during the festival.

Among Gitai's works are some that have previously been shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, including fragments of his films that have been treated with paint sprayed on cotton to create a more illustrative effect. The fragments will be placed in wooden frames and hung from the cathedral ceiling.

Other highlights include excerpts of film work based on his parents’ life stories, which will be screened and a reading by actress Jeanne Moreau from “Carmel,” the poetic text Gitai wrote for the exhibition catalogue.

The church's other transept will showcase a series of color photographs taken in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, where Gitai was born and lives today.