List Film

The Green Prince (3 stars)

Fascinating but flawed documentary focussing on an Israeli informant

The Green Prince

‘The Green Prince’ was the codename used by Israel’s intelligence service for its most highly placed informant, Mosab Hassan Yousef, when he was passing information to them on Hamas’ activities during the Second Intifada. So, at least, runs Yousef’s own narrative, and that of his erstwhile Shin Bet handler, Gonen Ben Itzhak – and their versions of events are all we have to go on in this intense, intriguing, but patchy documentary. Yousef, whose father is a founding member of Hamas, claims that he initially agreed to the Israeli authorities’ overtures with the intention of being a double agent, but switched sides for real after becoming horrified at Hamas’ brutality.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Yousef, and the planned feature film adaptation will doubtless have tension to burn. But, as a documentary, this feels sketchy, simplistic, and invested to a rather tasteless extent in the Hollywood-friendly thrills and spills of its story. The fact that it unquestioningly presents bloodshed in the occupied territories as the consequence of Palestinian terrorism will in itself be a problem for many viewers. To equate the entire Palestinian resistance movement with the crimes of Hamas is ideologically-charged disingenuousness; however you feel about Israel’s position, there is a complex context for Palestinian disgruntlement, which is glossed over here in favour of a heroes-and-villains narrative.

Yet despite this slant, Nadav Schirman's film is vague about Yousef’s own motivations. Now a Christian convert, he seems to have been largely fuelled by a succession of emotional crises but, despite the lengthy to-camera interviews, his real position on what he has experienced is hard to grasp. The fact that both men refer to their activities repeatedly as ‘games’ adds to the sense of a film too wedded to drama, and not enough to a real exploration of the issues it raises.

Selected release from Fri 12 Dec.

The Green Prince official trailer

The Green Prince

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • Germany/US/UK/Israel
  • 101 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nadav Schirman

Intense and intriguing but patchy documentary on the recruitment of Mosab Hassan Yousef by Shin Bet handler Gonen Ben Itzhak. Sketchy and simplistic, it unquestioningly presents bloodshed in the occupied territories as the consequence of Palestinian terrorism, and the absence of context makes for a film too wedded to drama.


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