By Lynn Venhaus
The complicated history of the Israel-Arab conflicts is explored in this thorough and engrossing documentary.

“The Human Factor” takes a deeper dive into the personalities involved and how that affected the persuasive efforts to change hearts and minds.

After the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. stayed the biggest global superpower and turned attention to negotiating peace in the Middle East. Director Dror Moreh takes a behind-the-scenes look at three decades of negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors by interviewing six mediators and uses archival footage for the historical details.

By interviewing go-between Dennis Ross – who worked under four presidential administrations, Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley and Aaron Miller, we get different perspectives that add depth to the historical records. All accomplished diplomats, they shed light on the process that helps us to understand where and why things go wrong.

Moreh, an Oscar nominated Israeli film director for “The Gatekeepers” (2012), co-wrote the script with Oron Adar. They start out with Secretary of State James Baker, under President George H. W. Bush, and mainly concentrate on the impact of the Bill Clinton years. After the botched deal at Camp David in 2000, they wrap up the next 20 years in a montage rundown.

The U.S. has been so close, but today, it seems like peace between the countries seems more impossible than ever. And the former diplomats candidly share their frustrations.

What we thought was a breakthrough turned out not be what everyone assumed at the Oslo Accords in 1993.That agreement between Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from 1969 to 2004, and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (’74-’77 and ’92-95), lead to a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, and then signed in 1995. But it did not result in peace. Rabin was assassinated two months later on Nov. 4, 1995.

Since then, five different men have served as prime minister of Israel: Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. and attempts to reach peace have failed.

The men in the rooms where it happened point out the missed opportunities, what happened with Syria and the PLO, and the complexities involved because of the region’s intricate history.

They could still be talking now, but the film smartly ends at 1 hour, 48 minutes, and is a story well-told. Moreh has gathered copious amounts of archival footage for the historical details.

A history, geography, political science and psychology class all at once, “The Human Factor” shows why there is no easy solution for sustainable peace in the Middle East.

FILE – President Bill Clinton, center, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat walk on the grounds of Camp David, Md., at the start of the Mideast summit on July 11, 2000. The documentary “The Human Factor” shows the behind-the-scenes story of the U.S.’s effort to secure peace in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

“The Human Factor” is a 2019 documentary directed by Dror Moreh starring Dennis Ross, Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley and Aaron Miller. It is rated PG-13 for some violence/bloody images and has a run time of 1 hour, 48 minutes. In opened in theaters May 7. Lynn’s Grade: B+

By Lynn Venhaus

Based on true events, writer-director Yaron Zilberman chronicles the disturbing descent of a promising law student into a delusional ultranationalist obsessed with murdering his country’s leader, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It’s an unnerving look through the eyes of a murderer who silenced a powerful voice for peace.

After the 1993 Oslo accords, it looked like peace was at hand between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But Yigar Amir, an Orthodox Jew, transformed from a hot-headed political activist into a delusional extremist who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995.

Zilberman methodically shows how a person can be radicalized as he identifies with fanatic groups about the decades-old violence in the Middle East. Zilberman weaves archival footage into the story, giving it the feel of a docudrama.

The movie, Israel’s submission for an Academy Award International Feature nomination, won the Israeli award for best film. Both Yehuda Nahari, as Yigar Amir, and Amitay Yaish Ben Ousilio, as Yigar’s father Schlomo, were nominated but did not win.

Zilberman’s last film, “A Late Quartet,” a drama about a string quartet with dysfunctional lives starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walker and Catherine Keener, came out in 2012.

He co-wrote this engrossing, well-researched script with Ron Leshem and Yair Hizmi, and they get inside the psychological mindset of the assassin and the personal turmoil affecting his judgment.

Nahari gives as srong performance as Amir, showing how his anger fuels his delusions, as does his girlfriend leaving him as he becomes more isolated. He recruits fighters and arms them to kill Palestinians. He thinks that their territory is God-given and he can bring salvation to his people. He discovers an ancient rule, The Law of the Pursuer, and insists it gives him the right to murder Rabin.

The result is a chilling portrait into the mind of an assassin and a look at how fragile democracy can be.

“Incitement” is directed by Yaron Zilberman and stars Yehuda Nahari Halevi, Amitay Yaish Ben Ousilio, Anat Ravnizky. It is not rated, but there are scenes of graphic violence. The film is 2 hours, 3 minutes, and is in Hebrew, with subtitles. Lynn’s Grade: B+

This review also appeared in the Feb. 21 Times newspapers — Webster-Kirkwood Times, South County Times and West End Word.