The Green Prince (2014)

The Green Prince (2014)The story told in The Green Prince is an astonishing one. Nadav Schirman’s documentary unfolds like a great John le Carré novel, threading its way through the twists and turns that bind two men on opposite sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict. One is Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a prominent Hamas cleric, who spent over a decade operating as an Israeli double agent. The other is Gonen Ben Yitzhak, who turned Mosab and spent many years as his handler.

Without spoiling anything, the specifics of how these men’s lives intersect should make for great cinema. It’s dramatic, emotional, political; incredible. And yet, Schirman can’t quite produce a film that lives up to the story he’s retelling, allowing it to lie limp on the ground. Talking heads and stock footage. Perhaps the choice to have Mosab largely retell his own story presents a disadvantage; tension is alleviated when we know that the story ends with him alive and well. Yet it’s just as much the sluggish, uninspired editing that drags the film down; if only someone like Bart Layton – responsible for The Imposter, a genuinely thrilling doco – could’ve taken the reins. The story keeps it interesting, but that’s about it.

2.5 stars

5 thoughts on “The Green Prince (2014)

  1. I was actually quite shocked at the bias of this film. They are studying a man who betrayed his family because of what he saw HAMAS doing, yet the film barely explores why HAMAS came about, and it certainly doesn’t cover any of the horrible things that Israel has done. This has such a western bias, it made me wonder, imagine if this story was made but from the side of Palestine? Such a film would never see the light of day.

    Glad you were able to get something out of this, cos despite the interesting story, I just couldn’t get over the Western bias. This is actually the only film I have ever given 1/5 for.

    • I take your point – my politics tend to swing further towards Palestine’s case than Israel’s, even if neither side is anywhere near ‘good’ – but this didn’t actually bother me because it’s less a political story than a personal story that happens to be embedded in a political context. When those telling the story are working for the Israeli side, you’re going to get that bias – and I think it makes sense, in this documentary, for the film to incorporate that perspective. It’s not entirely pro-Israel, either (for a good example of a film that is presented from the Israeli side but reveals a lot of their terrible behaviour, check out The Gatekeepers (https://ccpopculture.com/2014/01/19/the-gatekeepers-2012/).

      • Yeah that makes sense. And you’re certainly right, neither side is doing anything good, but Israel/the western world kinda kick started the entire thing by deciding the land was holy cos a book said so. but yeah it is more of a personal story, its a pity most of it is either Nassar or his handler talking directly at the screen for almost the entire film!!

        Thanks for the link mate! Sounds interesting

      • Yeah, it’s definitely a wasted opportunity in terms of its use of the cinematic medium. You wouldn’t have lost much listening to it as, say, a podcast.

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