Co-written by Ali Waked, an Arab journalist who spent some years in the West Bank, and the films Israeli director Yuval Adler, who served in army intelligence, Bethlehem (2013) is allegedly based on extensive research carried out by the two men. Set in 2005 in the Palestinian city located in the land locked West Bank a place that has a population reputed to be in the region of 25000 people. It is also the home of the Palestinian Authority and various armed groups who will do anything to force out their Jewish overlords, but naively spend more time arguing amongst themselves.
The film demonstrates how far the Israeli security forces will go to recruit, develop and run Palestinians informants known as ‘human assets’. One such asset or collaborator is Sanfur the younger brother of Ibrahim, a Palestinian militant high on the Shabak officers wanted list, originally recruited when he was 15 years old by Razi, who seems to think highly of the lad and treats him like his own son. But in this world of lies and deceit who can any body trust? The Palestinian Authority want a cease fire, Razi and his Jewish compatriots are hell bent on capturing Sanfur’s older brother dead or alive and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Hamas will do anything to keep their most successful freedom fighter alive and functioning.
Adler’s film succeeds in showing us the dark and bloody world of human intelligence and these poor souls that get duped into becoming part of it. The three main actors are non-professional. Tsahi Halery, who plays Razi, served in the Israeli army in the West Bank, Badawi, the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, is played by Hitham Omari a man that has known personally militant leaders similar to the role he plays on screen. Shadi Mar’i a 17-year-old lad from Nazareth is the big surprise making the role of Sanfur totally believable and one of the main reasons this feature film could so easily be taken as a documentary.
A movie that displays complex human interactions between the flawed characters of Razi and Sanfur, with their relationship made ever more difficult by the events constantly changing around them. A film to appreciate more than to entertain, but one that will give’s you a back ground to what we see on our nightly TV news broadcasts. This tightly wound thriller was shown as part of the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatres Middle East Film Festival.