BETHLEHEM (2014, Israel)
SUNDAY 15 November 10.00 am
TUESDAY 17 November 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 99 minutes
This film focuses on the uncomfortable relationship between the Israeli secret service and young Palestinian informers.
REVIEW BY MARGARET POMERANZ
Two recent films focus on that uncomfortable relationship between the Israeli Secret Service and young Palestinian informers - Omar and Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a city that resides under the watch of the Palestinian Authority but which, internally, is pulled in a number of different directions. Young Sanfur lives in the shadow of his brother, Ibrahim, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. He's living in two worlds because, we learn later, he's been forced into co-operating with the Israeli Secret Service to gather information. His mentor is Razi who over the years has developed almost a paternal relationship with his young informant. The politics of Bethlehem are on full display as Hamas and the Al Aqsa Brigade rival one another in their bid for endorsement by the Palestinian Authority.
Co-written by Israeli director Yuval Adler and Palestinian journalist Ali Waked, the film is an insight into the rivalries, the loyalties, and the hierarchies of this terrible situation. Using first time performers in three of the leads, Shadi Mar'i, as Sanfur, the charismatic Tsahi Halevi as Razi, and absolute first timer, cameraman Hitham Omari as Badawi, another Al Aqsa leader whose position is denigrated because of his Bedouin origins, director Yuval Adler walks a fine line in balancing the conflicting interests and influences to great effect.
The insight into the power structures in the Palestinian Administration is really interesting, but perhaps in trying to balance all varying interests it doesn't have quite the same dramatic power as Omar. Even so, it's a powerful, moving and informative film.
& DAVID STRATTON
It's fascinating to compare this film with Omar, because they are so similar in so many ways. But that was made by a Palestinian director; this is made by an Israeli director and so you've got a rather different look. But it is, as you say, an extraordinary insight into a horrible situation and particularly sad watching it now in the light of what has been happening in Gaza, but it is good that Israel can produce a film like this, which is critical of the way its own security people are acting in certain circumstances. I think the performances are really great. I think there is an immediacy and a sense of place to the film that's very powerful. I think it's very good.