In many ways, Out of Place the film is everything Out of Place the memoir is not. Based on the 1999 book by famed literary critic and scholar Edward Said (reviewed by me here last year), director Sato Makoto’s documentary is circuitous and meditative where the book is lush and deeply intimate. For me, the film serves as a beautiful annotation, featuring footage of the places Said lived as a boy — the family home in West Jerusalem, the apartment in Cairo, the summer house in Dhour el Schweir in the mountains above Beirut, alongside interviews with Said’s wife Mariam, their children, and colleagues Noam Chomsky, Elias Khoury and Daniel Barenboim. There is also stunning archival footage, including a scene taken in West Jerusalem, in which a young Edward climbs the pedestals at the gates of the elegant pink stone house.
The film opens as Makoto, accompanied by a guide, approaches the house in Dhour and finds two young Syrian brothers inside (“Not soldiers,” the guide assures the filmmaker), renters of the crumbling formal rooms strung with electrical wiring and clotheslines. They’ve never heard of Edward Said, “the famous Palestinian thinker, “ but clearly struck by the news he once lived there one of them admits, “I’m moved beyond words.”