Review: ‘State 194' takes smart look at Israeli-Palestinian dispute

‘State 194'
A scene from “State 194.”

Two years, two states. In 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid out a plan to end the decades-long territorial stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. But by 2011, despite Fayyad’s efforts, including a successful campaign to improve Palestinians’ economic and institutional infrastructure — a kind of “if you build it, statehood will come” — the situation remained deadlocked.

This period of hope, progress, frustration and fracture is examined with equanimity and clarity by Israeli filmmaker Dan Setton in the absorbing documentary “State 194.”

Setton focuses on the seemingly level-headed, optimistic Fayyad as he navigated the choppy waters of domestic politics and international diplomacy while pressing the United Nations for statehood and to make it its 194th member nation.

CHEAT SHEET: Cannes Film Festival 2013


This globe-hopping film offers an easily digestible look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, past and present, while framing the roles of its recent key players. Although President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear only in news footage, there are interviews with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, former Middle East special envoy George Mitchell, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer and others. Fayyad, it should be noted, resigned from his post just last month.

With a two-state solution still elusive, “State 194" may feel a bit like yesterday’s news — literally and figuratively. But as an aid to better understanding this vital, complex dispute, the film is definitely worth a look.


“State 194.” MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements, smoking and brief language. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills.