The Green Prince, film review: Cinematic documentary is fascinating but frustrating

(15) Nadav Schirman, 99 mins

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 12 December 2014 01:00 GMT
Mosab Hassan Yousef and Gonen Ben Yitzhak in the documentary ‘The Green Prince’
Mosab Hassan Yousef and Gonen Ben Yitzhak in the documentary ‘The Green Prince’

Depending on your perspective, Nadav Schirman’s troubling documentary is either a story about heroism and friendship or a study in extreme treachery and bad faith.

Produced by the team who made The Imposter, it is shot in self-consciously cinematic fashion, as if it is a noirish thriller. The two central characters are the Israeli Shin Bet agent Gonen Ben Yitzhak and his prize recruit, “The Green Prince”, Mosab Hassan Yousef. Mosab is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

The informer informs us right at the start of the documentary that for a Palestinian, collaborating with Israel is far more shameful than “raping your mother”. Nonetheless, he becomes an agent for Israeli intelligence (ostensibly because he wants to save lives) and forms an increasingly close bond with his Israeli handler, who shows an unexpected loyalty to him.

Like the con-artist in The Imposter, Mosab is continually living a lie, dissembling to his own family and inventing cover stories. Given that Shin Bet is a “dark organisation” and so much double bluffing is going on, it is hard to know how much to trust either of the two main interviewees. The result is a film that is fascinating but also very frustrating. The beautiful friendship between Gonen and Mosab is anything but innocent or straightforward.

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