Recruited as an informant by the Israeli secret service Shin Bet, a young Palestinian man finds himself caught between two very different kinds of loyalty when he discovers that his employers are plotting to assassinate his radical brother. First-time feature director Yuval Adler spent years interviewing Shin Bet officers and Palestinian militants to create this complex, intelligent, and timely tragedy.
One of the most unnervingly lucid films to be made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Yuval Adler's Bethlehem is a bold and bracing feature debut. Shifting between Israeli and Palestinian societies to tell its story of secret strategies, precarious alliances, and terrible betrayals, this gripping thriller plunges us into a milieu of family, terror, and espionage.
At the centre of Bethlehem's fraught geometries is Sanfur (Sahdi Marei), the little brother of wanted Palestinian militant Ibrahim (Hisham Suliman) — and an informant engaged by the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service. Sanfur was only fifteen when first recruited by Shin Bet officer Razi (Tsahi Halevi), and the two quickly developed an intimate, almost fraternal relationship, one that granted Sanfur more tenderness, respect, and attention than he ever found at home. Still, as Shin Bet's plot to assassinate Ibrahim heats up, Sanfur finds his loyalties hopelessly divided. Tensions escalate, leading to a brutal climax that offers no escape from the morass, but deepens our understanding of it.
Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary
The Gatekeepers helped familiarize
Western audiences with the complicated
history of the Shin Bet. Bethlehem takes
us one step closer. Adler, who worked
for Israeli army intelligence for several
years, co-wrote the script with Ali Waked,
a Muslim journalist. The two conducted
interviews with Shin Bet officers, and
Palestinian militants from al-Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades and Hamas. Years of research
went into developing this complex, intelligent,
and timely tragedy. It will have you
talking, and thinking, long after the end
credits roll — and pondering the human
price of conflict everywhere.