Review: ‘The Little Traitor’

Lynn Roth's coming-of-ager about a Jewish boy growing up in 1947 Palestine.

Freely adapted from Amos Oz’s novel “Panther in the Basement,” “The Little Traitor,” Lynn Roth’s coming-of-ager about a Jewish boy growing up in 1947 Palestine under British occupation, follows the 12-year-old protag as he attempts to reconcile his militant anti-British sentiments with his growing friendship for a paternal English sergeant. Sentimental and a bit too cute in evoking a child’s-eye view, the pic, which opens in Gotham on Oct. 16, nevertheless will please its target Jewish auds.

Proffy (Ido Port) spends hours plotting the demise of the British army, annihilating them in mock battles and strategizing resistance with classmates. But his cold relationship with his own father — and his fascination with the English sergeant (Alfred Molina) who teaches him snooker, swaps oddball English and Hebrew words, and consults him about the Book of Solomon — confounds Proffy’s aggressive stance, even as the Jewish community brands him a traitor for consorting with the enemy. While not overtly tying the British occupation with the current Israeli one, Roth nevertheless inserts warnings about Arab-Israeli tsuris once the English leave. Meanwhile, breasts and buttocks soon replace homemade bombs in Proffy’s adolescent imagination as the U.N. vote establishes Israel’s existence.

The Little Traitor

Israel

Production

A Westchester Films (in U.S.) release of an Evanstone Films/Panther production. Produced by Eitan Evan, Lynn Roth. Executive producer, Marilyn Hall. Directed, written by Lynn Roth, from the novel "Panther in the Basement" by Amos Oz.

Crew

Camera (color), Amnon Zalait; editors, Danny Shik, Michael Ruscio; music, Deborah Lurie; art design, Ido Dolev; costume designer, Inbal Shuki. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Oct. 8, 2009. English, Hebrew dialogue. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Alfred Molina, Ido Port, Rami Heuberger, Gilya Stern, Theodore Bickel.

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