Bethlehem (2013)

YUVAL ADLER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

Israel/Germany/Belgium, 2013.  Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, , , .  Screenplay by Yuval Adler, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

An Israeli police captain working the West Bank city of the title has a teenaged Palestinian informant whose situation is growing shakier by the minute.  Razi () recruited young Sanfur before the film began and is using him to get to the boy’s strategically significant brother; the cop also has a genuine feeling for the young man and has absolutely no desire to see him harmed for reasons both personal and professional.

Things heat up and efforts seem to be going in the right direction as far as the law is concerned, but when the removal of one figure only leaves a power void to be filled by someone more unpredictable and dangerous, Razi and Sanfur might be swallowed whole by insurmountable cultural aggression.

Excellent acting, particularly from the leads (Halevi, better known as a singer, performs in his first film role and you’d never know it) and some hard-hitting scenes of rich tension overcome weaker moments of contrivance that push the limits of melodrama.

Omar is a better example of controlled character study using a similar story, while director Yuval Adler’s penchant for shrill shock tactics (including the forced trauma of the ending) don’t always sit comfortably with the piece as a whole.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2013

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