An unsettling eye-opener

Too often, people in the western world shrug off the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflicts without a care. One of the reasons for this is simply that the events in that region are complex, ever-changing and generally confusing to many outsiders. Adam Hootnick’s documentary, Unsettled, illuminates a specific piece of the region’s puzzle in a way that’s sure to open some eyes.

In 1967, the Six Day War resulted in Israeli troops occupying the area known as the Gaza Strip. Promptly, the Israeli government encouraged its citizens to create settlements, giving the country a foothold in the region. Over time, constant attacks on troops protecting the area raised concerns over the status of the settlements. In 2005, Israeli President Ariel Sharon announced a plan to withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip and evacuate its citizens from the settlements in the area. As chronicled in Unsettled, the plan was not met with overwhelming support from the Israeli populace.

Unsettled begins by introducing us to a wide array of people living in and around the Gaza Strip: a religious filmmaker living with her family, an agnostic lifeguard and his religious best friend, a pro-evacuation activist and soldiers training to evacuate settlers. The film takes time to get to know each subject on an individual basis and understand their viewpoint on the evacuation, balancing perspectives to provide a means for outsiders to understand the situation. Israeli families have lived in the area for decades. Some think the Israelis have a divine right to the land, others think the area is just a beautiful place to live. When their government tells them to leave and sends the army in to remove people from their homes, conflicts arise.

Unsettled provides a great vantage point for the average viewer. The strongest moments of the film are segments featuring a pair of Israeli military personnel assigned to assist in removing the settlers. Some residents living in the area understand the rationale for leaving and get called traitors by their countrymen, while others refuse to leave and verbally berate the soldiers for going along with the prime minister’s order. It’s a delicate balance to show both sides as sympathetic, but Hootnick strikes it. If any group is demonized in regards to the pull-out, it’s Ariel Sharon’s government.

Despite western media commonly depicting the Middle East as a bomb-ridden warzone, Unsettled shows the region is actually far from it. The politics of the region are complex and ever-changing, but Adam Hootnick’s film provides much-needed insight into the hearts and minds of those living in the area.

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