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VENICE 2013 Venice Days

Bethlehem: double game and impossible friendship


- Yuval Adler presents a story about the complex relationship between an Israeli agent and a young Palestinian informant at the Author Days in Venice

Bethlehem: double game and impossible friendship

From the very first scene, it is possible to see what Sanfur is made of, the young hero of Bethlehem [+see also:
interview: Yuval Adler
film profile
, Yuval Adler’s first feature film. He indeed defies a groups of young people his own age to shoot him as he wears a used bulletproof jacket. It’s because he is Ibrahim’s little brother, a Palestinian combatant on the run, and he must prove that he isn’t afraid of anything or anybody. He lives in the shadow of his older brother: he supports him in his terrorists acts by transferring money to him, but we soon discover he is playing a double game, since he also helps the Israeli secret services who are tracking Ibrahim. 

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It is the relationship between Sanfur and Israeli agent Razi, who recruited him as an informant when he was only 15 years old, which is the focus of Adler’s film, an Israeli-German-Belgian coproduction selected for the Author Days-Venice Days of the 70th Venice Mostra. Razi trusts Sanfur blindly, even if it means standing up to his superiors when, after uncovering his double game, they don’t hesitate to sacrifice him to get to Ibrahim. From that moment, Razi too begins to lie to save Sanfur’s life. However, when Ibrahim is finally found and killed, his brother finds himself obliged to avenge his death.

Beyond being a well-documented spy story that informs the spectator on the operations of the Iraeli intelligence services but also on the contradictions of the Palestinian Hamas combatants (in one scene, they are seen fighting over the body of “martyr” Ibrahim), Bethlehem is a psychological drama that faces its two protagonists with impossible moral dilemmas. Razi is like a father to Sanfur, and the young man accepts his favours because he needs him and the affection between the two of them is sincere.

"There are no metaphors in my film", explained the director to the Venice audience once the clapping had ended. “The film tells individual stories like those we heard over the four years we spent doing research,” he added. “We wanted to talk about these men who take part in the conflict, even if they are not at the forefront. It was the repercussions of the conflict on their lives that was of interest to us,” emphasized the co-screenwriter Ali Waked, who has been a journalist and correspondent in Ramallah and Gaza for over ten years.

Main actors Tsahi Halevy and young Shadi Mar'i are both amateur actors, just like Hitham Omari, who leads the Palestinian brigades in the film. “In real life, I am a cameraman for a TV news channel,” he explained, “and when I read the screenplay, I found it to be true to the reality. Nothing is black or white in this conflict, it’s all a grey area that needs to be explored.”

(Translated from Italian)

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