|Directed by:||Chaim Yavin||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||55|
|Language:||Hebrew (English subtitles)||Genre:||Documentary|
A sick Palestinian girl cries in her father’s arms, unable to get medical assistance as she waits at a checkpoint station for hours in the hot sun. She is the face of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the reality of life in the West Bank, as depicted by director Chaim Yavin in the controversial and riveting documentary The Land of the Settlers: A Journey Log.
“I cannot really do anything to relieve this misery other than to document it,” Yavin explains, “so that neither I nor those like me will be able to say that we saw nothing, heard nothing, knew nothing.” A respected newsman, Yavin made The Land of the Settlers with hopes of inspiring moral change in his countrymen.
Over a period of two years, Yavin, who is referred to as Israel’s Walter Cronkite, traveled through Israel’s occupied territories with a handheld camera, documenting all that he saw. He interviewed Palestinians, checkpoint guards, leftist Israelis, and Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who all argue their beliefs adamantly and share stories of injustice and misery to back up their positions. Gripping and intensely emotional, Yavin’s documentary reveals the depths of the hatred on both sides, though the film ultimately questions whether Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is fair or consistent with Jewish values.
As an Israeli seeking to understand this conflict in which his fellow countrymen are engaged, Yavin takes an interestingly personal approach. Instead of speaking to politicians or political leaders, he invites himself into the homes of Palestinians and Israelis, where they explain their positions in their own kitchens over cups of coffee. As a result, the film puts faces and personalities on abstract political arguments.
Both the Palestinians and Israeli settlers tell Yavin that their lives are being toyed with because of their ethnicity, without respect for the fact that they are human beings, with rooted families and established lives. Palestinians on line at a checkpoint complain to the camera that the four-hour wait they’re enduring in the hot son is common, while an Israeli mother rants, “I think Jews that vote to evacuate us from our homes should come and talk to us. If they looked us in the eyes before they did, I think I’d feel differently.”
A controversial documentary, The Land of the Settlers has naturally met with mixed reviews. Some criticized Yavin for not being objective; others regretted that the film was not made sooner.
One Israeli newspaper writes, “After watching The Land of the Settlers, every caring Israeli, every humane Israeli, should get up next Saturday, go to the settlement nearest to his place of residence, and drag its inhabitants, kicking and screaming, across the road to the side of sanity.”
Some applaud the film and others resent it, but no one can watch it without feeling moved.
Ultimately, The Land of the Settler is a cry for humanity. The frustration felt on both sides is presented, despite the filmmaker’s self-critical view of Israel. Yavin shows gut-wrenching footage of the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack on an Israeli bus, and he also shows a Palestinian home that has been reduced to rubble. “I tell myself that bereavement is the same on both sides,” Yavin’s voice says from behind the camera, “except, in the evening news, they are always the murderers and we are always the victims.” In Yavin’s lens, the equation changes.
Amidst the pain and suffering, Yavin is left to wonder if it will ever end. As one Israeli citizen says angrily into the camera, “Israel has to make a decision: Where are we heading? Where is this tragic cycle leading us?”
The Land of the Settlers recognizes the difficulty of finding answers, but makes the question impossible to ignore.