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.

Discovery

Bethlehem

Yuval Adler

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.

JANE SCHOETTLE

Screenings

Fri Sep 06

TIFF Bell Lightbox 6

Industry
3:00pm
Sun Sep 08

Scotiabank 5

Industry
4:30pm
Mon Sep 09

Scotiabank 3

Regular
10:00pm
Wed Sep 11

Scotiabank 7

Industry
2:15pm
Wed Sep 11

Scotiabank 4

Regular
4:00pm
Sun Sep 15

Scotiabank 4

Regular
6:30pm