After our recent request for more information about the film Route 181, a reader wrote in to point out that a version with Spanish subtitles is available online – part one is above (part 2 is here, part 3 is here). We did our best with limited Spanish to cobble together a summary of the project.
In the summer of 2002, filmmakers Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan, set off to document Route 181 – a.k.a U.N. Resolution 181, which in 1947 set out the border intended to separate the then-British Mandate of Palestine into two states. The border never existed – in 1948, war erupted with Jordan and Israel grabbed most of the territory awarded to the Palestinians (West Bank and adjacent areas, Northern Palestine, areas surrounding Gaza), while Egypt took the Gaza Strip. Yet Sivan and Khleifi travel along this fictional line and document the everyday life of two cultures and the oral history of a sixty-year conflict.
The four hour documentary is divided into three chapters: The South, from the port city of Ashdod to the frontiers of the Gaza Strip; The Center, from the Jewish-Arab city of Lod to Jerusalem; The North, from Rosh Ha’ayn, near the new separation wall, to the Lebanese borders. Impromptu interviews with both Jews and Arabs who live along the borders are interspersed with long panoramic scenes of the border. These visual intervals show the landscape these stories unfold in, checkpoints, cafes, Israeli shopping strips, concrete and bared wire borders.
The film’s ongoing parable is the biblical story of Solomon, who recognized the true mother of a disputed baby to be the one who refused to split the baby in half – a clue to the filmmakers Palestinian sympathies and their obvious inclination towards a one state solution.
Route 181 is a brilliant mosaic of unofficial evidence that allows a candid evaluation on the border conflict today through the words of those who live it. The English-subtitled version of the film is available for purchase at Sinbad films.