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The Human Factor

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
The Human Factor
Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The men behind the Middle East peace process emerge from the shadows in this compelling doc

‘All of them think they can ignore history. But the Middle East is all about history. That is its curse.’ So says Gamal Helal about the series of US presidents he worked for as an interpreter. Helal was part of several diplomatic teams attempting to broker a peace in the region, and The Human Factor is a compelling study of these unseen background figures who did the dirty work that led to the Oval Office briefings and White House Lawn handshakes. At its heart is the struggle to get the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down with each other. Or to get one or other of them to sit down with Syria. There are conferences and meetings and meals and huddles and more meetings and further huddles.

Fans of The West Wing will really dig it. Director Dror Moreh rarely lets the news headlines intrude on the backstage bartering. An exception is the assassination of Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995. Rabin was the one who was finally prepared to deal with Yasser Arafat and the PLO, a commitment to the Middle East peace process which ultimately cost him his life. There are amazing, bizarre details: Rabin won’t allow Arafat to kiss him; he doesn’t want Arafat wearing a gun or a uniform. Is that a uniform? No, Prime Minister, it’s a military-green ‘safari suit’. Hmm, well…  And so on.

The resulting Oslo Accord, though considered a landmark piece of diplomacy, was ultimately a failure, allowing the signatories to ‘not fulfil their obligations’. You can see that the frustrations still rankle after all these years in these men. And they are all men. Men men men. The Middle East really is a sausage fest, or, to mix a metaphor, a pissing contest in which there are no winners. The Human Factor is full of insight into why that is the case and why it will continue to be the case. But answers? No chance.

In US theaters now. Out in the UK May 21.

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

Cast and crew

  • Director:Dror Moreh
  • Screenwriter:Dror Moreh, Oron Adar
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