Out of Place: Memories of Edward Said
(From a review by Andrew O'Hehir)
For a long time, I couldn't tell why Makoto Sato's "Out of Place: Memories of Edward Said" seemed to be spending so much time on subjects of tangential relevance to the late Palestinian-American intellectual who was such a force in cultural and political debate. Sato wanders through a refugee camp in Lebanon where Said almost certainly never set foot, visits an Israeli kibbutz where Said definitely never set foot, converses with an Arab tobacco merchant in a largely Jewish town. If you want a straightforward biography of Said, or a sober assessment of his importance, this isn't it.
But really, Sato's film is a marvelous exploration of the meaning of Said's life, which is the human condition of exile and displacement, as it applies to Palestinians and Jews but also to the rest of us. She visits the house where Said was born in Jerusalem (and where the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber later lived), and others of his homes, in Cairo, Lebanon and New York. She tries to meet real people along the way, wherever she happens to be, who will cast light on his central, and ambiguous, ideas about self and identity. We hear his writing read aloud, but only see him in childhood home movies and photographs. She shows us Said's empty office at Columbia University a couple of times, and it's somehow inexpressibly perfect and sad. By the end, I felt I understood Said far better as a man and a thinker than ever before, in a film haunted by his absence.