Bethlehem: Political Thriller, Striking Feature Debut of Israeli Director Yuval Adler

Israeli writer-director Yuval Adler and Palestinian co-scripter Ali Waked join forces together in making Bethlehem, a timely political thriller about the ferocious ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

This striking feature debut world premiered at the Venice Film Fest (in Venice Days) and then played at both Telluride and Toronto Film Fests.

The tale centers on the morally and politically complex relationship between an Israeli intelligence officer and his Palestinian informant.

Sanfur (Shadi Mar’I) is the younger brother of Palestinian militia leader Ibrahim (Hisham Suliman), sought by the Israeli secret service. Unbeknownst to Ibrahim or the teenager’s family, for two years Sanfur has been an informer, providing secrets to Israeli military intelligence officer Razi (Tsahi Halevy).

The bond between Sanfur and Razi goes beyond intelligence, with the later assuming the role of surrogate father. Sanfur’s biological dad (Tarek Copti) favors Ibrahim, who’s perceived by the whole family as a hero.

Other characters include Ibrahim’s duplicitous lieutenant Badawi (Hitham Omari) and the manipulative Palestinian Authority politician Abu Mussa (Karem Shakur)

Debutant director Adler shows confident skills in building and sustaining tension throughout the picture, especially in describing Razi’s struggles to protect Sanfur’s life, while at the same time exploiting his trust.

Adler has also made a smart decision to use no-professional actors in the lead roles, which increases the authenticity without jeopardizing credibility.