The first of a twelve part series on world leaders, 'The Price Of Kings - Yasser Arafat' is an engaging opening to this biographic documentary series organised by British filmmakers Richard Symons and Joanna Natasegara. Narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, this is an insightful examination of Arafat's influence, both during his presidency and posthumously, in Palestine and beyond.
Considering the continued failure of the Middle East peace process, the potentially explosive subject material here is handled with poise and class by the filmmakers and (for the most part) the film's talking heads - including the first interviews from Suha Arafat, since her husband passed away in 2004. President Arafat's actions from an early age to his suspicious death are discussed from both Israeli and Palestinean viewpoints, highlighting the mixed response he received at every turn.
Arafat was the first Palestinean leader to recognise the state of Israel, and his pragmatic work with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres led him to a Nobel Peace Prize and the ire of many of his people - agreeing to the 1967 boundaries, which meant only 22% of the original land would be retained. The result is a well-balanced analysis, albeit one which does not dig deeply enough in any one direction.
Aside from the occasional moving moment, 'The Price Of Kings - Yasser Arafat' often feels too detached and surprisingly non-partisan considering its depressing narrative, suggesting that arguably the best opportunity for peace between Israel and Palestine was foiled in the nineties. The tone is more lamentable than inspiring - Arafat gave up so much for his people and yet his sacrifice failed, what hope do we have now with less receptive parties in leadership?
It seems fitting however that Shimon Peres is the next in line for examination, given his dignified appearance in 'The Price Of Kings - Yasser Arafat'. As current President of Israel, perhaps he can re-ignite the peace process. Certainly, it should prove an intriguing companion piece to this first film, which itself is a wise starting place for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of the region.
For more info and to purchase 'The Price Of Kings - Yasser Arafat' on DVD, head to priceofkings.co.uk.