In Sheffield this month, I sat on the Jerwood First Cuts jury with BBC Storyville editor Nick Fraser, among others. At our deliberation lunch, we were talking about recent docs and Nick highly recommended that I check out the BBC doc “Elusive Peace”, which would be airing soon on PBS. It aired the night I returned from the UK and thanks to DVR technology I was finally able to catch it this week and its an exceptional doc.
The 150-minute, three part series offers a detailed look at delicate struggle to negotiate peace in the MIddle East over the past six years, featuring interviews with all the primary players: Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat, Colin Powell, leaders of Hamas, and many many others. Cameras are inside multiple rounds of peace talks, with the participants talking precisely about how the negotiations broke down, and why.
I found the doc to be an insightful examination of the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, giving me a better understanding of the recent conflct than I have ever found in the news media…
In part one, Clinton pushes hard for a peace deal before his term ends and Barak & Arafat seem to want to accomodate the him, but at the last minute negotiations over borders in Jerusalem break down when Ariel Sharon visits holy sites, leaving Clinton angry and defeated. In part two, Yasser Arafat and Colin Powell meet, with Arafat digging in and refusing to budge as Powell tries to balance tougher demands from inside the new Bush administration. While in part three, Bush makes peace a bigger priority with new Palestianian leadership, as Israel targets Hamas and Sharon changes the terms of a potential deal.
In particular, the doc explores the motivations of the U.S., Israel and Palestine, offering a juicy quote from two Palestinian leaders who say first hand that Bush told them that he was “driven with a mission from God” to make peace in the Middle East and secure a Palestinian state. (Three weeks ago, White House press secretary disagreed with the Palestinian leader’s statements, saying, “That’s absurd. He’s never made such comments.”) Part three of the BBC doc, with the final segment of the series, will air on BBC.