By Jordan Hoffman
The cliché goes “victory has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan.” Who can we blame for the inertia of what we used to call the Middle Eastern peace process? “It’s complicated” is a common response, and Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan’s film does a good job of explaining why the world continues to choke on this messiest of political hair balls. The Oslo Diaries is a striking document, mixing never-before-seen footage shot by the negotiators themselves and current reflections from participants, including the final interview of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
In 1992, relations were as low as they are today between the Israelis and Palestinians, but somehow the ice began to thaw between these two intransigent enemies. Peace no longer seemed like a pipe dream, at least for a moment. It all fell apart, of course, with the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (exiting a gigantic peace rally! The irony!) followed by the first election of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Oslo Diaries gets up close with those who did the initial, boring work. Two Israeli professors go to Norway with fake documents about a conference and come face-to-face with, among others, Abu Alaa of the PLO, who would later become prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority. In time, all “around the table” bond, maybe even become friends, especially after the first round of talks initiates an increase of bus bombings and Israel Defense Forces retaliations. It’s to the film’s credit that one comes away from this film frustrated that there are no easy answers.