Film Festival Film #6: State 194

My sixth film was State 194, a film about Palestine’s attempt to be recognized as the 194th state in the United Nations. The film follows a number of different people — Palestinian bloggers, Israeli pro-Palestinian activists, and several other — but the most visible subject of the film is the PA Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. Fayyad outlines his goal: ironically, to follow the same path to statehood that Israel followed. He worked to build the apparatuses of a Palestinian state, and then approach the UN say, “look at us; surely you can see that we’re a state!”

There are infrequent sequences showing people who disagree with this plan: we see a short sequence involving Hamas’ disapproval of Fayyad. We see some of the speeches by Netanyahu (plus some surprisingly candid behind the scenes meetings of Netanyahu strategizing how to block Fayyad’s UN application — Netanyahu seems to feel that UN recognition of statehood for Palestine allows them to get something without having to negotiate or compromise). We see a conversation between an Israeli government official and a group of settlers, in which they voice disagreement with the idea of a two state solution. (Housing and settlement issues were covered fairly thoroughly in the film). And a classroom discussion between a number of young Israeli kids and two members of the Parent’s Circle (Yitzhak Frankenthal and Khaled Abu Awwad, who were both present at the screening.) And there was an off-hand comment about how some Palestinians view Fayyad as a Westernized economist, and not representative of the people. But mostly the film portrays a lot of Fayyad as a man of the people, who is liked and respected. I’m not close enough to the subject to know how accurate this is.

But mostly, it was an extremely hopeful film. I mean, it ends on a sad note — the application for statehood is held up by the UN Security Council, and the US is threatening to veto. US politicians seem to be voicing the position that Palestine’s refusal to return to negotiations with Israel should count against them — they seem to be in accord with Netanyahu on this point. But, as I said, despite the sobering outcome of this work, the whole film feels hopeful. Perhaps that feeling of hopefulness is out-of-synch with the political reality; I can’t say, as I’m not close enough to Palestinian activism to know.

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