When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that Israel would withdraw from the Gaza Strip, returning the land to the Palestinian Authority and evicting Jewish settlers, the societal fissures revealed were so stark and severe they make the split between the Democrats’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton factions look like a feast of love.
Adam Hootnick, an American filmmaker who’d lived in Israel, decided to go back to document the eviction. “Unsettled,” which won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Slamdance, is the compelling result. Hootnick was resilient enough to write, direct, edit and do part of the cinematography, and was young enough to connect with the twentysomethings whose stories make up the film.
The Gaza Strip is a small piece of land, 25 miles long and seven miles wide, and heavily populated by Palestinians, that Israel took in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Hootnick spent extensive time with six attractive young Israelis from across the political spectrum.
Tamar and Yuval are soldiers who are compelled to take part in the evictions. Lior, an apolitical young surfer, and Meir, a religious follower of the Lubavitcher rebbe, are lifeguards who can’t believe their holiday is over. Neta is a religious filmmaker who believes “with God’s help we’ll be here forever.” And Ye’ela is passionately pro-withdrawal even though her sister was killed by a suicide bomber.
“Unsettled” opens with the buildup to the evacuation, including the extensive training given the Israeli Defense Force soldiers who will participate in what will be their largest action in a generation, one that will be against their fellow countrymen.
Sharon’s decision was hugely controversial and “Unsettled” shows us how Israelis nearly had a national nervous breakdown when contemplating what was to come.
The withdrawal itself turned out to be less fraught with actual danger than people feared but even more of a hugely emotional event than was anticipated. The gift of “Unsettled” is that it enables us to feel that we were right there, experiencing the sound and fury for ourselves.
“Unsettled.” Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.