DVD: The Green Prince

TheGreenPrinceDVDSTUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR:  Nadav Schirman
RELEASE DATE: 1/20/15 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
BONUSES: documentary TV special, TV interview, archive and interview extracts, storyboards
SPECS: PG-13 | 101 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Hebrew with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

I’d like to believe human beings can solve any problem if only they put their minds to it­. But if anything will prove me wrong, it will be the Israeli­-Palestinian conflict. Quite probably the most deep­-rooted, tangled mess of history we humans have concocted, no one has been able to manage a clean, objective solution. With no easy answers, Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince dives right into the heart of the storm with a story so fascinating, you’d swear it was a new Tom Clancy novel.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is a high-­ranking leader in Hamas; his son, Mosab, grew up watching his father constantly disappear into the hands of the Israeli police—a sure-fire way to install a hatred of Israel in young Mosab. Sure enough, as a young adult, Mosab gets involved in minor anti-­Israeli shenanigans, leading to an arrest. But Gonen Ben Yitzhak, a Shin Bet (Israeli CIA) official handling Mosab’s case, sees a future double­-agent in the young man. Mosab takes the offer, and returns to Hamas life, now secretly reporting to Israel. And so, the plot thickens…

Mosab Hassan Yousef is The Green Prince

Mosab Hassan Yousef is The Green Prince

With such a juicy story, The Green Prince should be a perfect documentary­ but it’s not. Schirman pretty much apes Errol Morris’ (A Brief History of Time) style, using his patented Interrotron to interview each man individually, creating an eerie, surreal, first­-person confessional with the aim of putting you front-and-­center of this epic drama. But Schirman lacks Morris’ interviewing skills, leaving several essential details unexplored, and delivering a narrative that, while inherently interesting, fails to put you inside their heads. What made Mosab betray not just his politics, but his family and friends, risking everything he has known in the process? The whole story pivots on this question, yet it’s barely addressed, as are other details that perhaps seem obvious to an Israeli, but unclear to everyone else. Why would a hardened official like Gonen put his job—and reputation—on the line for Mosab, as we come to discover? The story unfolds too neatly, leaving us searching for some missing pieces to this intricate puzzle.

Mostly, The Green Prince sticks to telling the story via two straight­-ahead interviews which, fascinating as they are, already exist in news reports and Mosab’s own book, Son of Hamas. A documentary can reveal subtleties of character, or the ins and outs of human relationships, but neither happens here. Not only do we never see the men together, they never really open up about much, other than to say they respected and trusted each other. This is a wonderful testament to the idea of hope in such a seemingly hopeless political situation, but it’s hardly the stuff from which great cinema emerges.

The DVD does contain some nice supplementary materials, including a TV interview with Schirman, who provides some of the context and insight missing from the actual film.

From a political science perspective, The Green Prince is essential. For a cinephile, not so much.

 

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.