11th October 2020 8.30pm at BFI Player
Mustafa (Ali Suliman) is separated from his family by the long wall between Israel and Palestine. Through circumstance, he lives in Palestine while his wife and children reside across the wall in Israel, just 200 metres away; close enough that they can say goodnight to each other by shining a light from their balconies. However, when his son is suddenly taken to hospital Mustafa finds himself unable to cross the checkpoint legally. In desperation to see his child he enlists the help of smugglers to get him and a group of other colourful individuals across the border.
This is 200 Meters – the debut feature from writer-director Ameen Nayfeh. Subdued and authentic in nature, the film presents a very real situation and the subsequent dangers that come with it. A talented cast, led by Suliman as the stubbornly gruff but caring father figure, make for enjoyable company as we embark upon a treacherous road trip to a heavily guarded checkpoint. The fictional narrative sets up the potential for a hard-hitting drama, but the director is sadly unable to match the tension of his own script.
When the plot gets moving and the viewers are introduced to the other players (a young man looking for work, a German filmmaker documenting a friend’s journey and a man determined to go to his cousin’s wedding) their situation gradually worsens as events start to go wrong. The reality of these characters’ experience is terrifying, and if it weren’t for some highly commendable performances (particularly Mahmoud Abu Eita as young Rami) one would never have guessed. No matter how nerve-wracking and tense their circumstances become, the picture progresses at the same monotone pace, where sneaking past armed soldiers is treated with the same excitement as stopping at a petrol station. Despite being constantly reminded how perilous their task is, the dangers never manifest.
The rather humdrum framing of a tense border crossing only worsens as our characters approach the end of their journey. Without any climax or payoff, the adventure comes to a close and everything is somehow okay.
With 200 Metres, Nayfeh draws attention to a real and important situation. However, he does so in a lackadaisical fashion that ultimately undercuts the severity of his own message.
200 Metres does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for 200 Metres here: