REEL Review – 200 Meters (2020)

Director: Ameen Nayfeh | 1h 36mins | Adventure, Drama | Language: Arabic, Hebrew, English

Mustafa (Ali Suliman), a Palestinian man lives 200 meters away from the Palestine/Israel border. When his son is hospitalised on the other side of the wall, he must find a way to be smuggled across.

200 Meters is a film with a strong social discord, taking place on the conflicted border of Palestine and Israel. But the beauty of Nayfeh’s film is that it never sacrifices it’s own story for the sake of pushing the social reality, it would rather use it as setting only, while occasionally implementing it into it’s storyline.

The central focus remains thematically on a Father’s journey to his family, one that becomes a test of resilience. Mustafa isn’t just going to his son, his unavailability to his family has begun to take it’s toll, so his long journey to them becomes one he must face in order to find redemption. It’s not that he is particularly unhappy with his family, the exact opposite actually. But his national identity restricts him from living the ideal life, leaving him to exhaust himself daily so that he can feed his family.

The beginning is somewhat of a slow-burner, intricately weaving it’s build of Mustafa with the awareness of it’s setting. He’s a happy family man with two daughters and a son, but his Palestinian nationality means that every day he must go through the excruciatingly long border control in order to work and see his family. But when his ID expires and his son is hit by a car, the film takes a drastic change in pace in order to keep up with it’s ‘against the clock’ storytelling.

This is the most pleasantly surprised I’ve felt while watching a film in a long time, and it’s because of the film’s ability to constantly surprise you.

The film is at it’s zenith when Mustafa agrees to be smuggled into Israel. It’s the pinnacle of the social commentary weaving itself into a journey that is wonderfully paced and surprisingly thrilling. Not only that, but the film is so good during this part that sometimes we forget where he’s going. The annoyance of fellow passengers quickly turns into reliance and acquaintances, but you find yourself so engulfed that you barely notice the progression of character. The pace changes drastically, turning into a thrill ride rather than a slow mediation, without losing any of the foundation the film’s beginning had. This is the most pleasantly surprised I’ve felt while watching a film in a long time, and it’s because of the film’s ability to constantly surprise you.

The Palestine and Israel tension is told to us through the frustrations of both sides, Nayfeh knows that being coy may be the strongest option and avoids any stance but rather tells the narrative through the characters. Mustafa is joined by a German documentary filmmaker and her Palestinian compadre as they try to sneak over the wall, and the tension between the two countries is used mostly to conflict the story of these two characters. It does seem unimportant to Mustafa, but incredibly important to the Director’s opinions on the overall conflict, using Mustafa as a voice of reason – albeit a frustrated one.

200 Meters may have a slow-burning start that over stretches a little, but when Mustafa’s journey is in full swing it’s impossible not to be enticed. An engaging film that has the sensibility of a social drama and the tension of a Bigelow thriller, 200 Meters is undeniably layered and endlessly entertaining as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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