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Bethlehem
★★★☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Bethlehem, the second espionage thriller about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict released in 2014, is as gripping and layered as Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar. Interestingly, both films were their respective county’s office submission for the 2013 Oscars (Bethlehem from Israel and Omar from Palestine--though only Omar was nominated by the Academy). While Omar is the more accomplished film in terms of its directorial style and lead performance, Bethlehem, from first time writer/director Yuval Adler, features a more nuanced screenplay and solid performances from its mostly non-professionals cast. Adler and co-writer Ali Waked spent years researching and developing this project, basing much of the narrative on actual events and drawing on extensive interviews conducted, both with operatives from Israel’s Shin Bet and Palestinian militants from Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The resulting film is every bit as even-handed as Omar, painting rich, multifaceted characters on both sides of the conflict. Of course it may not be all that difficult to be “fair and balanced” when working in the realistic, contemporary spy genre since the best films of this kind depict both sides as engaged in futile activities and will ultimately come to no good. Yet this never prevents us from connecting with the film’s characters because their exploits are inherently dramatic and exciting. Plus we know too well that stories like these happen all the time in this high-tension region.

Directed by Yuval Adler
Produced by Diana Elbaum, Talia Kleinhendler, Sébastien Delloye, Sonja Ewers, Osnat Handelsman-Keren, and Steve Hudson

Written by Yuval Adler and Ali Wakad

With: Tsahi Halevi, Shadi Mar'i, Hitham Omari, Michal Shtamler, Tarik Kopty, George Iskandar, Yossi Eini, Dudu Niv, Karem Shakur, Efrat Shnap, and Slmnham

Cinematography: Yaron Scharf
Editing: Ron Omer
Music: Yishai Adar

Runtime: 99 min
Release Date: 26 September 2013
Color