A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he's interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel's security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas's ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization's escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab agrees to spy for Israel. For him, there is no greater shame. For his Shin Bet handler, Gonen, there is no greater prize: "operating" the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas.Written by
Sundance Film Festival
Riveting documentary on a Real Life Story that is Stranger than Fiction
This documentary has one of those life-is-stranger-than-fiction premises. The son of one of the founders of the terrorist Hamas organization was successfully turned into an informant for the Israeli secret services, the Shin Bet. The story of Hassan Yousef would have remained one of the best guarded secrets of Israeli history had he not voluntarily exposed himself as a mole while living in the US after retiring as an Israeli asset. The story that gradually unfolds throughout the Green Prince is full of unexpected twists and intense political intrigue and family drama that one day needs to be turned into a full length feature film. But for now, we have this very competent documentary. Much of the film is a protracted interview with the Hasan with little camera movement, and simple lighting. This may sound like an overlong CNN special report, but the interview has such intensity, and Hassan narrates episodes of his life with such expressiveness and honesty, that the chronicle itself is gripping. It is interspersed with scenes that combine drone, night vision and CCTV like imagery, real news footage and some recreated acted moments, all heightening rather than replacing the narration. The storytelling and editing is tight and economical. Instead of taking a merely journalistic approach, it opts for a character study that slowly unfolds, turning a spy thriller plot into a story of betrayal and redemption that goes beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What the story does particularly well is show how gradually Hasan distanced himself from his father politically without ever disowning him. He simultaneously undermined him tactically and tried to avoid any threat to his life. At the same time, his "handler" Gonen Ben Yitzhak became a father- like figure. This bonding could be dismissed as no more than a predictable "Stockholm syndrome" denouement but for the fact that it was reciprocated by Gonen, who ultimately must also make a decision between advancing his career and protecting Hassan. The material never feels preachy or sanctimonious and it refuses to turn characters, even the Hamas founders, into cartoonish villains. A truly great documentarian like Werner Herzog or Joshua Oppenheimer might have taken a few more liberties with the material, and perhaps an even more cinematic approach, but this still deserves to be watched. In my case, the story lingered in my mind for many days after I had seen it.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this