Not a day goes by when you turn on a cable news network that you wouldn’t hear a story about tensions in the Middle East. ISIS, Iran, or constant tension between Israel and Palestine, it is a region full of complicated and volatile issues. Israel and Palestine’s relationship serves as the background for the documentary “The Green Prince,” but what makes this film different, and believe it or not, uplifting, is how its subject is not a political or religious statement, but a human story between two men from opposite sides.
“The Green Prince” refers to Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef. Mosab grew up idolizing his father and believing in his teachings, that Israel was the enemy of him and his family and that they should do all that they can to defeat them. However, when Mosab is arrested by Israel he is asked by Gonen Ben Yitzhak to serve as a spy for their special ops. After seeing the militant side of Hamas for the first time, Mosab agrees and Gonen becomes his handler.
The documentary, directed by Nadav Schiram, is exclusively filled with commentary from Mosab and Gonen as well as archival footage from Mosab’s time as a spy. The majority of the film plays like a thriller, with Mosab forced to tiptoe the line to avoid exposure, but also protect his family as best he can. It is a different perspective into that world and while interesting and revealing in some aspects, despite taking up the majority of the film’s runtime, all of it is secondary, setting up Mosab and Gonen’s relationship that will pay off in the film’s final moments.
Mosab and Gonen developed a trust with each other, one that was viewed as dangerous by the Israeli agency they worked for. When Gonen was deemed to have crossed the line for Mosab, he was removed from duty. As a result, Mosab no longer felt he could perform his duties. Mosab made his way to the United States, and after a period of feeling isolated, decided to reveal his role in a tell all book, “Son of Hamas.” Though it was against the agencies wishes, Gonen went to Mosab’s aide so that he would avoid deportation and certain death as a result of a return to the Middle East.
The strength of this film comes through in this final mission, for Gonen to save the life of his source. These men, who by all preconceived notions should be enemies, have learned to trust each other and find a bond that was worth each other risking their own lives. Text at the end of the film even reveals that Gonen’s children call Mosab Uncle Mosab.
The film is a harrowing tale. Betrayal, deception and death surround it, and to Schirman’s credit, it feels like that is all that awaits our subjects. But its heart and its power lie in these two men, an Israeli spy and the eldest son of a Palestinian militant group, enemies until they crossed paths and built a trust that made them brothers, which leads to an ending that inspires. Will this film solve the situation between the two states? Of course not. That is not its purpose, for like many great documentaries, the bigger issue is not the real story.
“The Green Prince” is currently available on digital, Blu-ray and DVD.