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Los Angeles Times Q&A with 'State 194' Filmmakers

By Carol J. Williams

May 16, 2013, 4:00 a.m.

In the 65 years since the creation of Israel and the scattering of millions of Palestinians from their historic homeland, hope of resolving the core crisis of the Middle East has risen to joyous pinnacles like Camp David and crashed into despair with deadly outbreaks of violence and bloodshed.

When Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in 2009 launched a two-year program to build up the economy and institutions of democratic rule, his vow to show the world that Palestine was ready for statehood inspired filmmakers Dan Setton of Jerusalem and Elise Pearlstein of Los Angeles to document his mission.

The film, “State 194,” blends scenes of grass-roots activism by idealistic young bloggers and pacifist groups like Parents Circle and J Street with Fayyad’s diligent work to build a state from the ground up. It is a chronicle that captures popular yearning for an enduring peace as well as frustration with political leaders on both sides who have repeatedly squandered chances for compromise and reconciliation.

Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist and former International Monetary Fund banker, resigned his Palestinian Authority post in April, ending a tenure that won respect from global peace brokers but was undermined by rivalries within the two largest Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah.

“State 194,” as Palestine would become should it gain United Nations recognition, premieres Friday in New York and Los Angeles. The debut coincides with the 65th anniversary of the nakba, or "the catastrophe," the 1948 flight of Palestinians from the new state of Israel.

Although the documentary on Fayyad’s mission ends before his resignation, Setton, who directed the film, and Pearlstein, who produced it, said in an interview with The Times that opportunities for peace and statehood nevertheless endure:

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