State 194: Film Review

State 194 One Sheet - P 2013
This cogent documentary well illustrates the myriad obstacles to achieving a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Dan Setton's documentary focuses on the efforts of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad to have his territory accorded full member status in the United Nations.

The intricacies of achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem are cogently explored in Israeli filmmaker Dan Setton’s thoughtful documentary State 194. Eschewing the often incendiary approach taken by recent films on the topic, it manages to provide hope that such a solution may one day be finally achieved, even if well illustrates the myriad obstacles that prevent it from happening.

The film largely concentrates on the efforts of Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, to petition the United Nations to recognize Palestine as its 194th member state. Needless to say, there’s little suspense about the outcome, since most viewers will know that the attempt failed — the territory was upgraded only to “non-member observer state” status — and that Fayyad resigned last month.

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Fayyad’s plan, ironically largely modeled on Israel’s successful appeal to the U.N. shortly after its inception, involved not just political action but also a methodical building up of the territory’s resources, infrastructure and government. But while he achieved many of his goals, he was ultimately unable to surmount the political opposition.

Although much of the film consists of footage of wonkish policy meetings, debates and speeches, it doesn’t ignore the more emotional aspects of the issue. Much attention, for instance, is paid to “The Parents Circle,” an organization founded by Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members to the conflict.

As with so many politically themed docs, a certain repetitiveness afflicts the proceedings, and the profusion of talking heads on display — many of them young activists representing both sides — eventually proves numbing. And although there are interviews with several key players, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and George Mitchell, the former U.S. envoy to the region, many others, such as Benjamin Netanyahu, are heard from only in news clips.

Opens May 17 (Participant Media)

Production: Set Productions, Zadig Productions

Director: Dan Setton

Producers/screenwriters: Dan Setton, Elise Pearlstein

Executive producers: Diane Weyermann, Jeff Skoll

Directors of photography: Hanna Abu-Saada, Yoram Millo

Editors: Brian Johnson, Ariel Setton

Composer: Michael Brook

Not rated, 98 min.