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‘Bethlehem’ all roads lead to this end

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To whom can you trust when your brother is the hero of the Palestinian movement, but the Israeli Secret Police has enlisted you? When bravado is showing you have the guts to take a bullet to the chest with a flak jacket that is so battered only a fool would do so, you clearly know you have nothing to lose. “Bethlehem” tells the story of one teenager, Sanfur, Shadi Mar'i who is befriended and used by Israeli Secret Serviceman Razi, Tashi Halevi, for the goals of Israel. However, Sanfur’s brother Ibrahim, Hashim Suliman, it turns out is working for both the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah. The question here is not only where do you loyalties lie, but to whom can you trust?
“Bethlehem” makes no judgments it simply tells its story. However, the story itself is convoluted. There are times when we do not know if Razi is really Sanfur’s friend, or if he will at the last moment sell him out. What is clear and unfortunately sad, is that Sanfur seems closer to Razi than his own brother, for whom he is carrying money back and forth between those who need it, and those who are dispersing it. There are no intimate scenes in this film to tell us if the brothers have any fondness for one another, or even like each other, so is it just a matter of familial ties that makes Sanfur comply? Again, we don’t know.
When the Secret Police are plotting to assassinate Ibrahim they do not seem to care that Sanfur could be killed along with him, even though he is helping them and is not complicit. Razi makes a point to tell him that it would be good if he went to his Aunt’s house, and this one moment of conscience is one that those in power never forget. It is also this moment which in the end, proves to be his undoing.
There are no surprises in this film and while it tells the story with uncompromising honesty, there are times when it does seem to drag. We know the outcome before we get there. So, maybe it is not the end which we should remember, but the small moments of humor and joy, between Razi and Sanfur, no matter how fleeting, which tender a tale worth remembering.


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