** Out of **** (Two Out of 4 Stars)
While receiving overwhelming critical hosannas and being nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, director Dror Moreh’s "The Gatekeepers" (2012), resulted in sharp division among many high-ranking politicians and security chiefs in his Israeli homeland.
Whether the film was loved or hated, few argued with Moreh’s ability to craft a gripping narrative.
Five years in the making, "Human Factor" has been on the shelf since the summer of 2019 and it’s easy to understand why. Sorely lacking the laser focus exhibited in "The Gatekeepers," "The Human Factor" finds Moreh trying to tackle both far too much and far too little subject matter while bungling the presentation. Along way he also breaks cardinal rule of documentary filmmakers by exhibiting overt bias.
Since 1948, there have been over 30 attempts to broker Arab/Palestinian-Israeli peace, with only one (the 1978 Camp David Accords) coming close to being successful. Although that event receives a fleeting mention here at the beginning --- as do others in the 20th century at the end --- Moreh puts the bulk of the attention on multiple talks that took place during the Clinton administration.
It doesn’t take long to figure out the principal mission of Moreh’s movie is not to bother with minutia or the pesky details of the peace agreements he covers here or even the history of Arab-Israel tumult but rather Bill Clinton.
Like many presidents before Clinton and likely everyone who follows, he made the U.S. the moderator in negotiations between millennia’s old countries who don’t care for each other all that much and only participate in these exercises because they are politically expedient while making great photo ops.
What sets Clinton apart from every other commander in chief before or since was his participation in five different international gatherings: the Oslo Accords (1993 and 1995), the Israel-Jordan peace treaty (1994), the Wye River Memorandum (1998), and Camp David II – sometimes referred to as the "Clinton Parameters" (1998).
The most "successful" of these meetings was Oslo when Israel (represented by then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) and Palestine (represented throughout by Yasser Arafat) actually reached what appeared to be happy middle-ground, with both men acknowledging the need for lasting peace required compromise.
As it often turns out, not everyone wanted peace and on November 4, 1995, Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli extremist not pleased with the country’s new living arrangements.
One thing Moreh gets semi-correct is the inclusion of interviews with Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley, Aaron David Miller, and Dennis Ross.
If you’ve never of these men, you’re in good company because most people couldn’t pick any of them out of a line-up. Moreh dispels the huge misconception that these gatherings involve various heads of state with sleeves rolled-up downing gallons of coffee and hammering out details.
In fact, it was the previously mentioned men and others like them who negotiated the deal at Camp David II. Although not revealed until near the end of the movie, Helal was the only Arab interviewed and at least three of the others admitted to favoring Israel in their talks.
Moreh makes his most grievous error by implying Clinton suggested Camp David II as a way of deflecting attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his subsequent impeachment. To suggest what anyone --- in particular a sitting U.S. president --- was thinking or questioning their motives for diplomacy --- especially in such a tawdry and tabloid manner --- is not the job of a documentary filmmaker.
From a production viewpoint, Moreh’s production is a stylistic mess.
It’s not unusual for documentaries to employ different types of film stocks or varying grades of audio as these are often dated and low-quality sources of data.
What isn’t usual was Moreh’s decision to visually enhance dozens and dozens of still photos in an effort for a useless 3D effect.
Not only was it not needed, it becomes a huge visual distraction.
Making the viewing experience even more unpleasant is the intrusive, nearly non-stop score by Eugene Levitas. It swerves from bombastic and overwrought to cloying and mawkish and back again with no rhyme or reason.
This is certainly not a movie in need of excessive orchestration.
Arriving at the finish line winded and sputtering, "The Human Factor" --- despite imparting gobs of information on international diplomacy we don’t normally hear about--- plays out like the rough cut of an episode in a 10-part mini-series. A single, half-realized feature film isn’t nearly enough to properly cover this lengthy, weighty, frustrating, and forever perplexing attempt to repair an unfixable problem.
Presented in English with infrequent Hebrew, Arabic, and Farsi.
(Sony Pictures Classics) (NR)
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles and is one of the scant few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
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