You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘The Green Prince’

Nadav Schirman's documentary never justifies the decision to bring Mosab Hassan Yousef's page-turning memoir to the screen.


Mosab Hassan Yousef, Gonen Ben Yitzhak. (English dialogue)

With “The Green Prince,” an extraordinarily engrossing tale becomes an extremely uncinematic experience in the hands of Israeli documentarian Nadav Schirman. Like the book “Son of Hamas” by Mosab Hassan Yousef, the film tells of Yousef’s decade-long stint as an Israeli secret-service informant, a job that required him to betray his father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a key member of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement. But Yousef makes a frustratingly inarticulate talking head, and his friendly relationship with the Shin Bet’s agent Gonen Ben Yitzhak — often onscreen as well — never carries the proper weight. Commercial prospects look dicey.    

Just as problematic is Schirman’s slew of awkward visual annotations — including the repeated use of drone shots of dubious provenance — that do little to enrich the narrative or engage the eye. In the near-total absence of actual footage of what Yousef describes, it may well be the case that his book is one of those that simply never needed to be filmed.

Certainly the story itself is a page-turner, and a few of Yousef’s statements carry a chill, as when, early in the film, he says of Hamas, “The goal was to kill Israelis, but Allah had other plans for me.”

Alas, it’s never satisfactorily explained in the film why Yousef (aka the Green Prince), apprehended in the mid-’90s for buying illegal weapons, then interrogated and imprisoned, would accept Ben Yitzhak’s offer to work for the Shin Bet, particularly given his father’s own lengthier imprisonment by the Israeli government and the younger man’s description of how cooperating with Israel is the “most shameful thing you can do in my country.”

A more dynamic screen presence than the jittery Yousef, Ben Yitzhak reveals that he holds a degree in psychology and seems to prove it in his recounting of how and why he used the Green Prince to his ends, getting him to disclose vital information about Hamas and its planned activities. Yousef mentions that he was highly opposed to the rash of suicide bombings that reached a bloody climax just before Sept. 11, 2001, an event whose enormous ramifications the film curiously neglects to note.

The glut of milky-looking surveillance footage, complete with crosshairs, quickly grows tiresome, especially as it’s never linked in any meaningful way to what the men talk about. One is left to assume that, like other visual elements of the film, these shots were either staged or lifted from the public domain.

Cinematography of the talking heads appears standard-issue. The insistently brooding score by British composer Max Richter begins, by intention or not, to drone, resembling the less abrasive variety of late-’80s Nine Inch Nails tracks. Sound recording is clear and capably mixed.

Sundance Film Review: 'The Green Prince'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema — competing), Jan. 16, 2014. Running time: 101 MIN.


(Documentary — Germany-Israel-U.K.) An A-List Films, Passion Pictures, Red Box Films production, in co-production with Telepool, Urzad Prods., in association with the Documentary Co., Yes Docu, Sky Atlantic, with support of Bavarian Film Fund, German Federal Film Fund, Hessen Film Fund, New Israeli Film Fund for Cinema and TV. (International sales: Global Screen, Munich.) Produced by Navav Schirman, John Battsek, Simon Chinn. Executive producers, Thomas Weymar, Sheryl Crown, Maggie Monteith. Co-producers, Omri Uzrad, Britta Meyermann. Co-executive producers, Nicole Stott, George Chignell, Andrew Ruhemann.


Directed, written by Nadav Schirman. Camera (color, HD), Hans Fromm, Giora Bejach, Raz Dagan; editors, Joelle Alexis, Sanjeev Hathiramani; music, Max Richter; sound, Alex Claude; re-recording mixer, Stefan Korte; visual effects, Kiril Rosenfled; associate producers, Rafael Marmor, Aviram Avraham; line producer, Ralf Zimmermann.


Mosab Hassan Yousef, Gonen Ben Yitzhak. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema

    Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema Inspired Orchestra in Paris

    Flanked by UniFrance president Serge Toubiana and the National Orchestra of France, filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier stood before a rapt crowd at Paris’ Maison de la Radio this past Saturday to introduce an evening dedicated to French film scores called “May the Music Begin!” That moniker – a reference to the original French title of his [...]

  • Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad)

    Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,' 'City Hunter' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based Orange Studio has nearly sold out its two French comedy highlights, Philippe de Chauveron’s “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2” and Philippe Lacheau’s “City Hunter.” “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,” which opened the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris last week, is the sequel of the smash hit film which grossed over $148 million worldwide. The movie has been [...]

  • Danmarks Sønner, en film af Ulaa

    Trailer for Rotterdam Competition Opener 'Sons of Denmark' Released (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for the opening film of Rotterdam Film Festival’s Tiger Competition, “Sons of Denmark.” The film is a political thriller set in Denmark in 2025, a year after a bomb attack in Copenhagen, when ethnic tensions are running high. An ultra-nationalist politician, Martin Nordahl, and his National [...]

  • Operation Red Sea review

    Chinese Entertainment Industry Braces for a 'Cold Winter' in 2019

    Winter is here for the Chinese entertainment industry, a half-dozen top-tier industry professionals concurred in Beijing at the launch last week of Tencent Entertainment’s annual data-filled white paper. China’s box office hit new heights in 2018, raking in about $9 billion, but it was also a year of drastic regulatory changes and a government tax [...]

  • Indie Sales Acquires Martin Lund's Nordic

    Indie Sales Acquires Nordic Coming-Of-Age 'Psychobitch' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales has acquired Martin Lund’s Norwegian coming-of-age drama “Psychobitch” which is headlined by Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne (“Utoya: July 22”). “Psychobitch” marks the first feature film of Martin Lund, who made his debut with “Twigson Ties the Knot,” a local box office hit, and followed up with “The Almost Man,” which won [...]

  • Studiocanal has sold Jean Paul Gaultier's

    Jean Paul Gaultier's 'Freak And Chic' Documentary Sells For Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Underscoring the strength and scope of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s legacy around the world, the documentary “Jean Paul Gaultier Freak And Chic,” which chronicles the making of Gaultier’s ongoing popular show in Paris, has been luring distributors in key markets. Sold by Studiocanal and produced by Capa, the documentary has already been picked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content