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Tells the story of the complex relationship between an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant. Shuttling back and forth between conflicting points of view, the film is a raw portrayal of characters torn apart by competing loyalties and impossible moral dilemmas, giving an unparalleled glimpse into the dark and fascinating world of human intelligence. Written by
Ground-Level Film About the Heart of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
The first scene involves some Palestinian boys engaged in an updated version of "chicken" in the desert outside of Jerusalem. Instead of some teenagers in the 1950's driving their cars off some embankment as in "Rebel without a Cause", these boys are using semi-automatic weapons and a rather worn "bullet-proof" vest. The main character of the film, Sanfur (played by Shadi Mar'i in completely convincing performance), is a Palestinian teenager who dons the vest and instructs his fellow peers to shoot him, if they have the guts. This is a game but a very brutal one. When some of the adults appear on the scene, the kids scatter. But I think the point is the adults are playing at the same brutal game, daring each other to fire at one another.
The film involves three groups: two militia groups of Palestinians who are somewhat at odds with each other, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and their common enemy, the Israels. Sanfur is literally caught between all three who seem to be playing a very deadly game of tug-of-war. His family is sympathetic to the Palestinian Authority but he socializes with people in Hamas, the more radical of the two. At the same time, Sanfur is good friends with Razi (Tsahi Halevi in an equally compelling performance), who is in reality an Israeli agent. His agency's duty is to infiltrate the Palestinian regions near Jerusalem and Bethlehem and root out members of the Palestinian militia groups. While Ravi appears to be Sanfur's friend at one level, the Israeli is using the boy to obtain information about Hamas.
The conflict begins with a decision to hunt down and assassinate a Hamas leader name of Ibrahim, whom the Israelis have been chasing for a year but is also, unfortunately, Sanfur's brother. Sanfur finds himself caught between the radical Hamas leaders, his family which appear to be on the moderate side of the conflict, and Ravi the Israeli, who has become like a father-figure for the boy. Now the boy is torn between all these loyalties. The crucial moment of the film occurs when Sanfur forces Ravi to take a kind of test of friendship. Will he succeed or fail? Will the boy side with the Palestinian authority, Hamas or with the Israeli agent?
An incredibly compelling film, but a very dark one about the current hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. The acting is outstanding, and I have read that some of the actors had never performed in a film before. The viewer feels as if he or she is with these people, almost spying on their conversations and actions. There is never a dull moment, but this is not that kind of film where the good guys and the bad guys are neatly spelled out for us.
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