Bethlehem – Director, Yuval Adler Omar – Director, Hany Abu-Assad

Sometimes when you go to TIFF in a serious way you encounter unique experiences. That happened on Wednesday for me when I attended the last two Middle Eastern films of my week’s schedule. Both films deal with Palestinian collaborators and their Israeli contacts. One, Omar, is directed by a Palestinian and the other, Bethlehem, is directed by an Israeli. Despite being filmed completely separately from one another and by different sides of the West Bank occupation, the stories are stunningly similar. Neither film tries to paint one side or the other as either good nor evil. Omar portrays the Israeli’s as more ruthless to some extent but what one sees in both films is both sides caught in a situation in which they are trapped with no way out. Both sides are depicted with the understanding that comes from living the reality of the struggle over Palestine. The acting in both films is superb often with amateur actors and both draw in your sympathy for all the characters on both sides. The action and tension keep you on the edge of your seat until the final predictable but brutal endings. I do not want to spoil the films for you so I will not tell you how they end except at the climactic moment (the same in both films) they both go to black and run the credits leaving you gasping. Needless to say these are not “fun” movies but very very good and I will be disappointed not to see them nominated for awards and winners of many. I think to understand what you read every day about the Middle East it is very important to see these movies along with Palestine Stereo (previously reviewed). Also needless to say – Night Moves which was described as an excellent thriller is really more a FWP (first world problem) kind of movie (Hollywood sometimes just doesn’t get it) and is boring and irrelevant in the face of these two films. (well to be honest it was boring all on its own) What a great day at the movies I had.

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