THE SETTLERS (Israel/France/Canada 2016) ***

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the_settlers.jpgDirector: Shimon Dotan
Writers: Oron Adar, Shimon Dotan

Review by Gilbert Seah

 The film begins with the figure shown in the image above of a Rabbi standing and overlooking the land he has settled in. THE SETTLERS are then explained to be Israelis that have settled in the occupied land of the Palestinians. Why? Because these are the lands occupied by their forefathers and the forefathers of their forefathers, down to the Biblical times of Abraham. These are religious people. They believe the land belongs to them. Director Doton shows that some of these people are religious zealots leaning towards terrorist actions. The map of the region is shown on the screen for audiences to understand better the whole picture.

In the press notes Dotan says: “I made The Settlers because, in my view, the Settlement Enterprise has the most dramatic impact on the future of Israel, and the discussion about it, is often misinformed,” Dotan says. “I set out to explore the reality in the West Bank settlements. But it soon became clear that I had to go back to the roots, to where and when the West Bank settlements began.”

A good point about the film is the fact that desire being directed by an Israeli, it offers two points of view. Dotan himself has lived in a kibbutz when young and served in the Israeli military. Being highly educated, not to be biased but to have an educated point of view, his film takes no sides. He allows a Palestinian, a Human Rights expert a lot of screen time to put the troubles into perspective.

The conflict between the Arabs and Jews, the Israelis and the Palestinians is an unending one. This documentary gives a comprehensive history lesson up to the present time. The events unfolds in chronological order. History can be interesting or boring. Students of history often complain on the irrelevance of the past. The history lesson here is clearly the exception. The assassination of ex-President Rabin is also brought into perspective.

Director Dotan is an all qualified director, as stated above, to present the lesson. Dotan was born in Romania in 1949 and moved to Israel in 1959. He himself grew up in Moshav Arugot, an agricultural cooperative. He then served five years in the Israeli military as a Navy Seal before becoming a filmmaker. He went on to get his BFA at Tel Aviv University, where his student films won Israel’s Best Short Film and Best Director Awards twice. Dotan is the recipient of numerous awards including, the Special Jury Prize for Best World Documentary Feature at Sundance Film Festival (Hot House), Silver Bear for Best Actor at Berlin Film Festival (Smile of the Lamb), Best Film Award at Newport Beach Film Festival (You Can Thank Me Later), two times winner of Israeli Academy Award for Best Film and Best Director (Repeat Dive, Smile Of The Lamb) and others. So, THE SETTLERS is a solid documentary filled with archive footage (many grainy black and white), and interviews from rabbis and the first settlers.

Dotan never judges the extremists, though one feels that his film is a bit biased against these settlers, who just enter and occupy Palestinian land. THE SETTLERS ends up more an important and essential history lesson for those that need to know, less understand the conflict that hopefully will come to a peaceful end in the future. What is clear is that there is too much hatred and racism and there is no impel solution.



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