Review: 'The Human Factor' takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to Middle East peace negotiations

Review: 'The Human Factor' takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to Middle East peace negotiations

1/23/2021 6:17:00 PM

Review: 'The Human Factor' takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to Middle East peace negotiations

Dror Moreh's documentary 'The Human Factor' looks at Middle East peace efforts during the Clinton administration through the eyes of U.S. diplomats.

AdvertisementOriginally titled “The Negotiators,” Moreh had a change of heart when he realized the importance of the “human factor” in diplomacy. As Ross points out, negotiation is not about manipulation (notwithstanding“The Art of the Deal”). It’s about building trust and credibility and demonstrating empathy.

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But even as Indyk speaks of “missed opportunities,” we are reminded of the cruel role played by external events beyond the control of these men. Political change, in the form of elections or in the case ofRabin, assassination, can clear the chess board like an angry toddler just as progress is being made.

In a prologue to the Clinton years, we see Secretary of State James Baker run out of time to execute his plans when George H.W. Bush fails to win reelection in 1992. Eight years was not enough for Clinton and his secretaries of State, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright. (Moreh chose to exclusively interview the male “negotiators,” which keeps the film focused, but deprives it of other perspectives.)

Moreh, who received an Oscar nomination for the 2012 documentary“The Gatekeepers”about Israel’s secretive security agency Shin Bet, utilizes his background as a cinematographer to maximum effect in the film’s visuals. Drawing on a trove of photos from the Clinton Presidential Library enhanced with visual effects, and news footage to more than counter the talking heads of the interviewees.

AdvertisementThe film effectively ends with the 2000 summit at Camp David and there’s a silly moment between Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Arafat. Neither wants to be the first through a door after Clinton and a game of “You first,” “No, no, you first,” ensues. Human factors, indeed.

A brief montage covers the George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump eras. In a statement in the film’s press notes, Ross writes that recent breakthroughs among the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel would not have been possible without the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995. The region is changing and new threats have emerged,

, and once more, the chess board has been cleared. Let’s see what happens.‘The Human Factor’PG-13, for some violence/bloody images Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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