The 2005 withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip is seen through the eyes of six twentysomething Israelis from different corners of the political map in accessible, if somewhat glib, docu “Unsettled.” Pic evokes TV series like “The Real World” via its use of comely protagonists, bouncy editing and a comfy soundtrack of pop tunes, so it’s no surprise multihyphenate helmer Adam Hootnick previously produced news stories for MTV. Item should appeal to a young demographic, especially on ancillary, although the news has quickly passed by events depicted.
Footage follows the lead-up to the largely bloodless but highly contentious withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in August ’05, and the subsequent clashes between the Israeli Army enforcing the evacuation and the settlers resisting it. Apparently striving to present a balanced picture, helmer Hootnick profiles three subjects who largely support the withdrawal and three who oppose it, though attitudes vary significantly between all six.
Absence of any Palestinian voices is as conspicuous as in Yoav Shamir’s similarly structured docu, “5 Days,” which covered the same event but on a broader canvas and with more cinematic heft.
Settlers are repped by lifeguards Lior and Meir and aspiring filmmaker Neta. Grinning, mane-haired Lior seems to mourn the imminent loss of his favorite surfing beach more than the Gaza Strip itself. Meir comes from a more religious background and believes passionately that the borders of Israel should not be changed. So does Neta, who’s seen out and about on activist duty showing her homemade films and later holding down the family fort until the bitter end.
The pro-withdrawal protags come across a little less vividly. Fellow soldiers Tamar and Yuval both admit they find it painful to carry out their evacuation orders, but seem more circumspect about expressing their feelings frankly.
Meanwhile, willowy blonde activist Ye’ela reps the pic’s most intriguing character as she travels the country with an activist group that supports returning the land to the Palestinians, facing down abuse in the streets of Jerusalem. She explains, without self-pity, that her sister was killed some years ago by a Palestinian suicide bomber, yet she’s willing to forgive in the interests of healing the country’s deep wounds.
Hootnick seems determined to make everyone likable, no matter how vapid, objectionable or ill-articulated their views are. The emphasis on personality over politics or serious debate makes the pic feel lightweight, ill-suited to theatrical exposure.
Constant use of montage sequences set to snappy songs reinforces the made-for-TV, pop-video vibe. The work of Hasidic rapper Matisyahu and his dancehall-inflected beats crops up more than once.