The Human Factor
by director Dror Moreh
During the work on a project, I wanted to interview former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I asked Ambassador Dennis Ross, who knew Kissinger, if he could help me to arrange that interview. He agreed and we met. This was in 2015, at the height of the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. Kissinger, who knew Ross very well, wanted to prepare himself for a hearing before the senate foreign relations committee and questioned Ross assuming different scenarios that might happen in the following months regarding the nuclear deal. For me, sitting there like a fly on the wall it was a riveting half an hour. I felt as if I was in a debate at the situation room in the White House or at the State Department. At the end of that, Kissinger agreed to be interviewed for my new project and as we left his office, I told Ross what I had felt while listening to them.
Ross, who was the chief American negotiator for peace in the Middle East, answered that the debate I witnessed was very similar to those that take place in the White House. I asked if he would be willing to share those intimate moments from within those rooms during his 25 years of work trying to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors—not what happened in front of the camera but behind the scenes, with the leaders and the other American negotiators. Ross wanted to think about it—after all it’s his life work and memories—but after a few days he agreed.
Although this is a story with global impact, it’s a very personal one for me. On November 4th, 1995, which happens to be my birth date, Prime Minister Rabin was shot. Ever since that night my life was turned around. It ended up as the driving force behind The Gatekeepers, my previous film and now it fed a deep desire to really understand why although a huge American effort had been invested into the peace process, all attempts to reach peace went so badly wrong since that horrible November night.
The Human Factor, which in some ways I see as a companion piece to The Gatekeepers, answers that question from within the negotiating rooms, from the perspective of those who were there, from those who spent days, months, years to bring peace. I wanted to revisit those moments with the individuals at the heart of the negotiations. They had worked intimately with leaders on all sides and through their perspective, I wished to decipher what were the real reasons for that failure.
More than that, The Human Factor explores on a more fundamental psychological level, the human beings who are the political leadership, the core of diplomacy and decision making—and portrays them as they really are.
The negotiators who tell our story are, in a similar way to The Gatekeepers, all individuals who are critical to world historical events, whose faculties of persuasion and analysis have a profound impact on the politics in the U.S., as well as the Middle East and of my home country, yet they are somewhat hidden from the public eye. They are consummate experts in their field with astonishingly deep understanding of the region’s idiosyncrasies with all its history, politics, and culture.
For the first time in film, they have had the benefit of time to consider their particular roles and actions, with the capacity to return to these historic moments and events, and share their remarkable stories, experiences, insights and reflections.
Posted May 3, 2021