Yasser Arafat Documentary: Palestinian Leader's Nephew Explains Why They Kept Quiet About 'Assassination' (TRAILER)

First Posted: 12/03/2012 22:15 Updated: 04/07/2012 12:15

"He got married to me, and we had a daughter, but he was married to the cause. I was a friend of the cause."

Thus Suha Yarafat, Yasser's widow, sets the scene for this intimate portrait of the Palestinian President.

President Arafat is the first in a series of documentaries, entitled The Price of Kings, created by Spirit Level Film, intent on exploring the cost - whether personal, political or ethical - paid by some of the last century's great leaders.

The first two titles, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, are based in the Middle East, while the third documents the Costa Rican leader Oscar Arias. There will be 12 films in all.

Most controversially in the first film, Arafat's nephew claims the Palestinian leader was poisoned in his final days of being bunkered in Gaza, with a substance the French authorities who treated him at the end of his life were unable to recognise in their laboratory. Other contributors make the same point that Arafat was "undoubtedly assassinated" but said there was no one specifically they could blame.

"Proof of assassination would have meant the end of the peace process," explains his nephew, making it clear that, whether what they allege is true or not, this family's sense of sacrifice was not limited to Arafat alone.

The film is uncompromising, detailing the violence and bloodshed perpetrated by both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with accounts from a huge number of witnesses close to the respective leaders bringing home the frustrations and challenges behind the military campaigns.

As well as telling the story of his political party Fatah and the rollercoaster ride of relations Arafat travelled with western leaders - including a defining stand-off with President Clinton at Camp David in 2000 - the film is most effective with its input from those closest to the leader, including, for the first time, his widow Suha:

"Once Spirit Level explained to me the nature of the series - they wanted to uncover the story behind the legend - and I was keen to be involved in such a project," she tells HuffPostUK on a visit to London.
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Her enduring love and admiration for her husband ("never a killer, always a freedom fighter") is evident, adding a very human dimension to the details of the many attempts on his life - one occasion even when he was visiting his wife and newborn baby in hospital - and the changing perception of him on the world stage.

But her contribution to the film is most moving during his last four years bunkered in Gaza, when they were separated, but would speak on the phone up to three or four years times a day. During that time, he would stay mentally strong, telling Suha to take care of their baby, but his increasing frailty became apparent to her, before he was flown to Paris where he died in November 2004.

"This is the first film on Yasser since he has died and includes such a wide range of people that were very close to my husband," reflects Suha.

"It's a very touching and honest portrait. I hope it helps people to make up their own mind about my husband in an informed way."

Arafat is now available on DVD from priceofkings.co.uk. For those worried that such an intimate portrait of the controversial Palestinian can only be partisan in nature, Spirit Level will be following this documentary with one on Israeli Shimon Peres. Here's the trailer:

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