Description from TIFF 2012 catalog by Thom Powers:
Palestinians and their embattled history have been the subject of innumerable documentaries. But never before has a film gained such intimate access to the highest levels of the Palestinian leadership as State 194 — the title of which refers to Palestine’s quest to become the 194th country to be recognized by the United Nations as an independent state. We follow Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his colleagues over two years as they work to change course after decades of bloody conflict and failed diplomacy. Fayyad, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas, brings a different approach to Palestinian governance than have leaders in the past, setting out to build up the foundations of a state from within in order to earn international recognition.
Through Fayyad’s efforts, we gain insight into a whole generation of Palestinians who are pursuing a far more positive agenda than the kind that normally makes the news. Emmy® and Peabody Award–winning director Dan Setton, who has worked extensively in the Middle East, makes a compelling human drama out of Fayyad’s efforts to persist against the odds, and he helps viewers make sense of the thorny issues standing in his way, from multiplying Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the internal strife between Fatah and Hamas. Fayyad is clear-eyed about the obstacles facing him while retaining a tremendous optimism and an unshakeable will to prevail.
Ironically, Fayyad’s tactics are similar to those Israel employed in the late 1940s to achieve the nationhood that came at the expense of displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. It’s fascinating to watch State 194 in the context of two other documentaries in the Festival this year that bring their own distinct approaches to the region: The Gatekeepers, in which former leaders of Israel’s Shin Bet security service express their hopes for a two-state solution, and A World Not Ours, which brings a first-person eloquence to describing the plight of Palestinian refugees. Clearly, there is a growing dialogue and urgency around this issue that reflects its looming importance in world affairs. State 194 is an invaluable contribution to this discussion, bringing new leaders to the forefront and opening a more hopeful chapter in the fraught history of Israeli-Palestinian relations.