Review: Bethlehem

This, the first feature from Israeli co-writer/director Yuval Adler, working from a script co-penned by Palestinian Ali Waked, works satisfactorily as a dramatic thriller.

This, the first feature from Israeli co-writer/director Yuval Adler, working from a script co-penned by Palestinian Ali Waked, works satisfactorily as a dramatic thriller, a character study of a father/son-like relationship and/or, if you dare, a social-commentating piece about the whole Gaza thing. However, given the situation in that region since this one’s production, more than a little here looks like wishful thinking. Sanfur (Shadi Mar’i) is the 17-year-old brother of Palestinian militia leader Ibrahim (Hisham Suliman), a wanted man sought by the Israeli secret service. However, for two years Sanfur has secretly and riskily been giving information to Israeli military intelligence officer Razi (Tsahi Halevy, who actually served in an elite unit of the Israeli army), and the two have developed a closeness that goes beyond any money that changes hands. This isn’t surprising, as Sanfur’s real dad (Tarek Copti) only cares for the older son, and we meet a large and intertwined group of characters that orbit around Sanfur and Razi as suicide bombers strike, Hamas makes life difficult and, eventually, one must defend the other. Well-played by a small army of mostly unknown and untested players, Bethlehem is strongest when it features one or both of our heroes in a series of tense chases and against-the-clock suspense sequences. Adler and Waked try hard (perhaps too hard) to make it feel evenhanded, although surely some viewers, possibly without even seeing it, will feel offended and take sides. But of course. Rating: *** Rated M

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