Growing up in Greece, I remember that one of the most central and hotly debated news topics was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And of course everybody’s attention was focused on Yasser Arafat. One day a close friend said, “while Yasser is alive, there is hope”. And I remember thinking, he was right. And this wasn’t because we agreed or disagreed with his politics, but rather because we knew about his unparalleled passion, his inner strength, his desire for freedom and his rare ability to get everyone heard and to remind his people they matter, they have rights and they should fight for them. The Price Of Kings: Yasser Arafat brings forward exactly that aspect of the Palestinian President. It paints a picture of a revolutionary and it does so with great sensitivity and truthfulness.
This is the first film of a series of documentaries shedding light onto the lives of some of the most influential and controversial political leaders. Such a topic could start with no other than the President of Palestine and the King of Controversy. When a man is a revolutionary hero to some and a ruthless terrorist to others, then the debate around his name and work seems to be a never-ending one. However, his importance as a political figure is undisputable, his sacrifices for the Palestinian cause are uncountable and his great impact on the Middle East is conclusive.
Directed by Richard Symons and written by the director alongside Joanna Natasegara, the documentary was released in the UK on March 5, 2012. Arafat’s story begins with the partition of Palestine in 1947, while the future leader was still a student in Cairo. The film takes its viewers through all the major events in the man’s life, from the foundation of his political party Fatah, to the Oslo Accords in 1993, the numerous terrorist attacks, the assassination of the Israeli President Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and Arafat’s ultimate sacrifice and death in 2004.
It is all built around interviews of everyone who really knew the Palestinian leader. His confidants within the Palestinian Authority, his friends, his adversaries, his colleagues and most of all, his widow, Suha, all give a very truthful and revealing insight into the life of Arafat, the President, and Yasser, the man. The fact that Symons and Natasegara managed to get Suha Arafat to talk about her personal life with Yasser in such great detail and depth, is noteworthy, as it gives the film an emotional tone and makes the story told much more human.
In fact, this is what ultimately makes this documentary about a prominent political leader, non political. Although of course all key moments of the turbulent relationship between Israel and Palestine are explored, still they work more as a background for an important man’s life story to be told more effectively. This is a story about a man in a certain place, at a certain place. The people around him, the reasons for doing what he did, the motives behind his decisions and the controversy that his choices brought on. Every piece of information is given from the inside, nothing is speculated and everything is extremely well-researched and documented.
The Price Of Kings: Yasser Arafat is produced by Joanna Natasegara and Richard Symons’ production company, Spirit Level Film. Jake Corbett and Audrey Aquilina are in charge of the film’s photography and Stuart Briner and Tom McFarland sign the documentary’s music score. The result that the team delivers is a powerful, comprehensive and highly educational documentary, while at the same time being a moving and inspiring personal history of a man married to his country and his cause. The complexity of Yasser Arafat’s case, as a man, as a political figure, as a President, as an accused terrorist and as a worshipped freedom fighter, makes a difficult subject to handle when making a film about him. But The Price Of Kings: Yasser Arafat does a wonderful job bringing a balance to everything. The documentary pays tribute to one of the most significant political figures of the 20th Century and does so faultlessly.
The Price Of Kings: Shimon Peres at Unsung Films