11th October 2018 9.00pm at BFI Southbank
12th October 2018 3.30pm at Vue West End
Directly targeting the political unrest that has so prominently forged its way into UK politics over recent months, Iris Zaki’s Unsettling delves deep into the people right in the heart of the lands most affected by the Israeli-Palestine debate. A self-confessed “leftie”, the filmmaker coordinates her first feature-length documentary as a social experiment, aiming to highlight the tensions and experiences of citizens from the Israeli West Bank settlement Tekoa, but through the more personal approach of one-to-one interviews.
The film begins as an educational experience, with the director laying down her purpose and challenges for the project, even at one stage admitting her fears of not even getting enough content to fill the feature. However, once sat down with willing volunteers, Zaki is not afraid to challenge the views of those villagers comfortable enough (or not so comfortable enough) to join her, slowly peeling away the layers and barriers each interviewee builds up to uncover their true emotions and political opinions.
Revealing interesting perspectives and engaging in intelligent political discussions, Unsettling morphs into a documentary about the people rather than the unrest, made more unique through its presentation of an educated auteur assured in her political views, making a welcome change from the more information-heavy pictures which appear to conclude with no answer. Each conversation sparks different questions that tickle the brain, none less so than “Where is Israeli diversity?” If other countries can manage a multicultural society, why can’t Israel? A pertinent question, the answer to which still floats up high in the air and out of reach.
The one issue with the documentary is the methodical pacing that comes with a series of in-depth discussions about such political content. The feature roles onwards from interview to interview, interjecting each dialogue with prolonged scenic shots displaying life in the West Bank and haunting vast landscapes. But it is this lumbering fluidity that makes watching the full 70-minute piece a tiring and arduous task, given the limited number of interviewees and the fact that each conversation is conducted in exactly the same location. One subject breaks this mould, giving an immensely powerful and emotional account of the moment she was assaulted and stabbed by a young Palestinian boy with an astonishing explanation of how she grew to forgive her attacker. These moments are in slightly short supply on the screen and although Unsettling’s content is without doubt vitally important, a wider variety in the portrayal of this investigation would certainly have helped convey the film’s message more critically.
Unsettling does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Unsettling here: