The Oslo Diaries review – hope and anguish in the Middle East | Documentary films

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Like a sombre archaeological dig, this documentary disinters the 1990s Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. It began in 1993 with imaginative, off-the-record discussions between unofficial representatives in a conference venue outside Oslo – no more neutral and non-Middle Eastern location could possibly be conceived, short of hosting the talks on Pluto. And it ended catastrophically, with the assassination of the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Unlike in South Africa and Northern Ireland in that same era, the chance for peace was missed. Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan’s film reconstructs the lost atmosphere of hope, with interesting interviews, including one with Israel’s then foreign minister, Shimon Peres – the last one he gave before he died.

We can see the skittery excitement and optimism of all parties, and then the anguish as the process was derailed by the Hebron massacre of 1994, in which an Israeli doctor opened fire on worshippers at a mosque, which polarised opinion in precisely the way intended by the perpetrator. The gap between the negotiators widened, with Hamas and Benjamin Netanyahu appearing on either wing.

Is there one single bad guy in this story? This film, rightly or wrongly, is in no doubt that it is Netanyahu, the reckless populariser and inflamer, who had no interest in the peace process other than reframing it as treason and using it as a political opportunity. Rabin emerges as a tragic figure and the film allows us to see how careworn and troubled he was throughout the process, unhappily aware how unpopular it would inevitably make him. Maybe he even foresaw his own end, but calculated the sacrifice might be worth it. And it yet might.

This is a worthwhile film, but there is a flaw. It uses reconstructions for some of the “negotiation” scenes and these are not signposted, though their existence is confirmed in the closing credits with a list of the crew who worked on “re-enactments”. That is a questionable and unnecessary habit.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Oslo Diaries review – hope and anguish in the Middle East | Documentary films

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