Film Review: Unsettling

Iris Zaki’s Unsettling is a revealing documentary. By speaking to Israeli settlers on the West Bank, the film shines a light on a controversial topic.

Filmmaker Iris Zaki creates a pop-up studio in Tekoa, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. None of the inhabitants are that keen to talk to the media, but eventually some are willing to have a conversation with Zaki…

Self-professed left wing filmmaker Iris Zaki latest project is an impressive one. She attempts to get an insight into a little seen group: Israeli settlers. Given the controversy surrounding the issue, it is unsurprising that inhabitants are unwilling to talk on camera. Zaki continues her project for thirty days, becoming a fixture at the cafe.

Once residents begin talking to Zaki, the conversations are very revealing. Unsettling features a handful of interviews, with Zaki speaking to her friend Matania several times throughout the film. A couple of things come across clearly. Most of the interviewees come from religious backgrounds, but as adults do not continue these beliefs as adults. Extremism in youth is also a recurring theme, suggesting indoctrination is responsible for the views expressed by participants.

The lack of exposure to Palestinians is another aspect that comes across strongly in Unsettling. The segregation discussed here will appear extreme to those living in multicultural environments. Some of the views are understandable, or even optimistic, whilst others are shocking. One participant, who appears diplomatic at first, openly admits to having fascist views.

Zaki pieces these discussions together in a very watchable format. At the very beginning, we see Zaki setting up the studio. This is overlaid with the voice of a resident who is very unhappy about the filmmaker’s project. This immediately indicates the opposition she faces. Zaki provides further context to the dispute by featuring radio news reports. This gives viewers an insight into the troubles in a succinct and even-handed manner.

Unsettling tackles a tricky topic by relying on dialogue, perhaps a metaphor for the wider conflict. An insightful watch.

Unsettling is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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