Telluride 2013: “Bethlehem”

“Bethlehem”, the Israeli submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, was one of the stronger films at the Telluride Film Festival. Razi (Tsahi Halevy) is an Isreali Secret Service officer who has developed a protective, almost fatherly, relationship with Sanfur (Shadi Mar’i), his teenage Palestinian informant. Sanfur’s brother is a Palestinian militant wanted by Israeli authorities.

Shadi Mar'i (center) in "Bethlehem"

Shadi Mar’i (center) in “Bethlehem”

“Bethlehem” is a forceful and gripping suspense film as well as an effective character study of conflicted loyalties in the volatile Middle East.

The film is the first feature from director Yuval Adler, an Israeli Jew, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ali Waked, a Muslim. Their combined backgrounds bring an unusual insight into the different sides portrayed in the film. Adler served in army intelligence. Waked is a journalist who worked in Ramallah and Gaza. Adler said that it was difficult, but that eventually Palestinian militants from all-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hamas opened up, and they received information on Shabak, the Israeli secret service.

“Bethlehem” will screen at the Three Rivers Film Festival, Pittsburgh.

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