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Bethlehem Synopsis

SYNOPSIS 
“Bethlehem” tells the story of the complex relationship between Razi, an Israeli Secret Service officer, and his teenage Palestinian informant Sanfur. 
Sanfur is the younger brother of Ibrahim, a highly wanted Palestinian militant. Razi, determined to capture or assassinate Ibrahim, recruited Sanfur when he was just 15, investing all his energy in the kid and developing a very intimate, almost fatherly relationship with him. 
Sanfur, who has always lived in his brother's shadow, thrives on Razi's attention. Now 17, he struggles to navigate between Razi’s demands and his loyalty to his brother, living a double life and lying to both. 
When the Israeli Secret Service discovers how deeply involved Sanfur is in his brother’s activities, Razi is accused of crossing professional lines and is ordered to sacrifice Sanfur in an upcoming attempt to assassinate Ibrahim. As preparations for the military strike are underway both Razi and Sanfur are forced to make choices that will irreversibly change their lives. 
Co-written by Israeli director Yuval Adler, and Ali Waked, an Arab journalist who spent years in the West Bank, and based on extensive research, “Bethlehem” transcends perspectives, revealing the impossible situations and moral dilemmas associated with the dark and fascinating world of human intelligence. 

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December 11, 2013, 11:30 am

A Geopolitical Twist in the Foreign Film Race

Every now and then, the Oscar competition for best foreign-language film is enlivened when it turns out that filmmakers from different places have tackled the same subject, unaware that someone else had the same idea. That’s the case this year, but with an additional geopolitical twist: the director of one of the films involved is an Israeli, and the director of the other is Palestinian.

“Bethlehem,” co-written and directed by Yuval Adler, and “Omar,” co-written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, are thrillers that focus on the complex relationship between an Israeli intelligence agent and one of his secret informants, a troubled Palestinian teenager. Not only that, the two movies have been set in towns whose names have deep religious resonance for Christians, Jews and Muslims (Bethlehem and Nazareth), and end in identical fashion.

“By the way, it’s a true-to-life ending that I first read about in the newspaper,” Mr. Abu-Assad said of the conclusion to the two films. “I think that any filmmaker who will read this in the newspaper will immediately think, ‘Oh this is good for a movie.’”

The similarities do not stop there. Mr. Adler and Mr. Abu-Assad came to their careers as directors somewhat belatedly, after working in technical fields. Both also cast nonprofessionals, in their film acting debuts, in lead roles, and have dialogue in Arabic and Hebrew.

We’re not done yet: at least one Palestinian actor auditioned for both films, and the father of an actress who appeared in Mr. Abu-Assad’s film plays a role in Mr. Adler’s film. Additionally, in the United States, their two films even have the same prestigious distributor of foreign movies, Adopt Films.

“In the beginning, we felt like ‘Oh, is this a good idea?’” Mr. Abu-Assad said, referring to Adopt’s acquisition of both films “But now I think it’s a very good idea.”

Despite their many striking similarities, there are also important differences between “Bethlehem” and “Omar,” in emphasis and tone. In separate interviews conducted this fall, Mr. Adler and Mr. Abu-Assad discussed their own movies at length and also commented on their reaction to and reading of the other’s film. Those posts will follow shortly.

 

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Foreign Language Oscar: Israel Submits ‘Bethlehem’; Palestine Goes With ‘Omar’

By NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor | Sunday, 29 September 2013 13:17 UK   Tags: Oscars

Among the last to do so ahead of the October 1st submission deadline, Israel and Palestine have designated their respective entries for the Foreign Language Oscar race. Israel has selected BethlehemYuval Adler‘s debut feature that he co-wrote with Ali Waked. The movie premiered in Venicebefore heading to Telluride and Toronto. Over the weekend, it scooped six Ophir Awards — Israel’s Oscar equivalent — including BestFeature and Best Director. The film takes place largely in Jerusalem and the West Bank and focuses on an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant, the younger brother of a sought-after militant. Adopt Films acquired Bethlehem for the U.S. last week. Israel last had an Oscar nomination with Joseph Cedar’s 2011 pic Footnote, but has never won in the category.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture said Sunday afternoon that is is sending Omar to the Academy as its representative this year. Hany Abu-Assad’s film debuted inCannes in the Un Certain Regard section where it picked up the Jury Prize. The political thriller is also an impossible love story that employs themes of trust and betrayal on the West Bank. Palestine does not submit a film to the Oscars each year and Omar is notable for being the first feature to be completed independently, with 95% percent of the budget contributed by private Palestinian investors. Its North American debut was as an Official Selection in Toronto. It will also screen at the New York Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival. Abu-Assad’sParadise Now was nominated for an Oscar in 2005.
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