UNSETTLED is Adam Hootnick's first film. Previously Adam covered politics and international affairs as a producer at MTV News & Docs, focusing on the war in Iraq and MTV's Choose or Lose coverage of the 2004 US Presidential election. Adam has also worked at NBC News and MSNBC, and has covered stories for broadcast and print media in India, South Africa, Cuba, and Israel, where he lived in 1997-98. Before working in film and television, Adam also worked for the South African Parliament's Justice Committee and for the Boston Consulting Group. Adam is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
"If it bleeds, it leads." It's a disturbing phrase I heard for the first time when I worked in television news; disturbing because it is morbid, and disturbing because it is accurate. As the Middle East descends once more into killing and kidnapping, missile strikes and artillery fire, the region maintains a firm grip on headlines worldwide. In a sense, though, these stories are old news the same wars have continued, with varying intensity, for at least half a century.
Yet one of the most important Mideast stories of the last fifty years didn't gain much media traction, because there wasn't much bleeding. In retrospect Israel's withdrawal from Gaza seems to have been relatively peaceful and efficient, but the operation's success was not a foregone conclusion. Having lived in Tel Aviv for a year, I knew that Israel was a nation with deep divisions that surfaced primarily during moments when the nation's external threats were in remission, however temporarily.
Living in the nation's secular center both geographic and political my experiences in Israel rarely brought me into contact with settlers and members of ultra-religious groups. Most of my friends were totally "normal" meaning "like me." They listened to Pink Floyd and went out to bars and nightclubs. They spoke perfect English. Yet at some point there was an end to the suburban similarities; most of my Israeli friends had just left active military service, and for them there was nothing strange about the fact that on any given day they might be called to combat duty within a few miles of their homes.
When it became certain that Israel would leave Gaza a move supported by the majority of the country but opposed by a significant minority I decided that I had to return. I wanted to tell the story of soldiers like my friends, most of whom wanted security, but not occupation. I wanted to hear the settlers talk about the faith that guides them, about the land they claim as a birthright, and about the Palestinians whose claims they reject. I wanted to see what would happen to their country if Israelis were ordered to point guns at Israelis. In this battle over coexistence with the Palestinians, what would happen if someone pulled the trigger?
But UNSETTLED is not a political story. It is a story of young people in conflict, told in their words, seen through their eyes, and heard to the beat of their music. And it is not just an Israeli story it is a story about trying to find peace by combating extremism at home perhaps the only strategy that will ever break endless waves of attack and reprisal. Conflicts between a moderate, tolerant majority and a vocal, fundamentalist minority are seen throughout the world rarely are such conflicts resolved peacefully. Israel is only one of many places where the first battle for peace must be fought at home. And the story of that battle may be the most important story of all.