The Green Prince is the stuff of spy novels and thrilling features films. It’s hard to believe that Mosab Hassan Yousef has lived this life, and still lives to tell his story in this documentary film.
Mosab is a Palestinian and the son of Hamas founder and leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, an extremely influential and respected man in the Hamas movement. It was assumed that Mosab would follow in his father’s footsteps and for a while it looked like he might. At the age of 17 he bought illegal guns with the intent of killing Israeli soldiers.
However, Shin Bet, the Israeli Spy Agency, had been watching Mosab and he was arrested soon after purchasing the illegal guns. What happens next is hard to believe. Mosab is convinced by Gonen Ben Yitzhak to become a spy for Shin Bet and for the next decade that’s what Mosab does, despite the incredible risk to his and his family’s personal safety. It is said that Mosab’s information saved the lives of hundreds of Israelis and prevented many suicide attacks from taking place.
The film is largely narrated by Mosab and Gonen, who each offer fascinating insight into both their person situation and the political situation in the region at the time. Surprisingly, this not a political documentary, this is a documentary about the relationship between Mosab and Gonen and the risks that each of them took out of respect for the other – while Mosab was the spy, Gonen also broke protocol many times to protect Mosab. It’s quite extraordinary that such a strong friendship would grow from this situation, but there is no doubting the love that the men have for each other.
Nadav Schirman has been careful not to take sides here and he has not included too much political history, leaving out details of the more extreme actions of both Hamas and Shin Bet. This is fine if you’re familiar with the political situation in the region, but for those who aren’t it could be a little difficult to get into the film. Schirman also leaves many questions unanswered, particularly about what happened to Mosab’s family and the human cost of protecting Mosab.
The Green Prince is such an incredible story that it’s flaws can be forgiven. Thanks to the unlikely friendship between Mosab and Gonen, the lasting message from this film is one of hope.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Nadav Schirman
Writer(s): Nadav Schirman
Starring: Mosab Hassan Yousef, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, Sheikh Hassan Yousef
Runtime: 95 minutes
Release date: Australia: December 4, 2014