Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Green Prince

The premise of this documentary is interesting enough - Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader in the West Bank, was for many years an agent for Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service. We find out how and why that happened and how it worked. Like many documentaries, there's quite a lot of talking head footage but in this film there are only two heads - Mosab himself and his Shin Bet handler Gonen Ben Yitzhak. The two heads are interspersed with historic footage and some re-enactments and there is an element of the political thriller here.

That said, the Green Prince doesn't feel like a documentary, or a political thriller. In some ways it feels like a Cinderella story - how the slightly plump, bearded, bespectacled Muslim youth from the West Bank that we see in the historic footage became the immaculately groomed beautiful and Christian specimen who resides in the US that we see in the interviews. In other ways it feels like a love story - the relationship between Mosab and his handler was (and remains) deep and intense. Mosab has no contact with his family now but he rings Gonen every week, even though he is no longer a spy and Gonen no longer works for Shin Bet. You could also view it as a sort of morality tale  - Mosab was raped by a family friend when he was about five and in his culture it seems the only thing more shameful than being a rapist was being a victim of rape,  so he never told his family. It's not a huge leap to say keeping a shameful secret from a very young age made him a good prospect for being a spy for the Israelis - just another shameful secret, really. So look after your children, if you'd like them to look after you in later life.

You will come away from the Green Prince with new facts, and an appreciation of how Shin Bet recruits its spies. You'll also come away with an appreciation of the effect that the recruiting and the spying has on the participants. And, I think, an opinion of who came out of the process the best.

Anne's rating 3.5/5

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