The Green Prince was the code name for Shin Bet agent, Mosab Hasan Yousef, whose exploits were chronicled in his 2010 biography, Son of Hamas. An engrossing documentary based on his biography opened the annual Sundance Film festival this past Thursday evening. Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas co-founder. Mosab was captur] at 17, imprisoned and deftly turned into an effective agent by his Shin Bet handler, Gonen Ben Yitzhak. The Green Prince is a documentary thriller rivaling in certain passages some of the psychological elements of the Bourne Legacy film series. The documentary like his biography illustrates graphically Mosab’s betrayal of his family, his transformation into a double agent and ultimate conversion to Christianity. A conversion which would mark Mosab as an apostate under Sharia subject to death fatwas. The docudrama was written and directed by Israeli Nadav Schirman. Schirman has produced other films in the espionage/terrorism genre. The Champagne Spy (2007) was about the son of a Mossad agent. In the Dark Room (2012) he portrayed an interview with the wife of the arch terrorist “Carlos the Jackal”, Magdalena Kopp.
We were introduced to Mosab through Former Muslims United co-founder, Nonie Darwish when he was confronted with a 2010 Homeland Security Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation hearing in San Diego, California. We endeavored to make the connections between Mosab and an immigration legal clinic run by a Professor at Pepperdine Law School, a former ICE Administrative Law Judge and Brooklyn acquaintance of Steve Emerson. Testimony by his Shin Bet handler facilitated the decision by the ICE Administrative Law Judge at the San Diego proceedings enabling Mosab to remain in his adopted country. We noted in our post at the time:
Yousef’s Shin Bet Handler, Gonen Ben-Yitzhak has broken the rules in the Israel Security Service and has publicly decided to stand as a witness to confirm Yousef’s exploits that saved Israeli Jewish, Palestinian and American lives, chronicled in his book, Son of Hamas .
In May 2010, Mosab received a special award from the Endowment for Middle East Truth where there was a dramatic reunion with Gonen Ben Yitzhak at a Washington, DC Capitol Hill event. In 2011, we reached out to him to confirm a false report that he was detained by Shin Bet in Israel. It turned out it may have been a younger brother. See our Iconoclast post about that episode, here.
The Schirman documentary , The Green Prince was reviewed in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Times of Israel, HitFix , and The Guardian. Doubtless there will be more reviews following this opening weekend for the Park City, Utah film festival founded by legendary Hollywood film actor and director, Robert Redford.
Here is a sampling of some of the review comments.
This is engrossing, even hair-raising stuff, though in packaging it as a taut political thriller — complete with shadowy re-enactments and sinister drone footage — Schirman perhaps doesn’t best serve the more searching story of personal transformation at hand here.
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.”
The incredible story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas who was an informant for the Israeli secret service for over ten years, is almost staged like something out of Syriana or Zero Dark Thirty in Israeli writer-director Nadav Schirman’s new documentary, The Green Prince. Thankfully, the talking-head segments provide enough psychological insight to accompany the countless drone shots and menacing score.
A tense documentary from the Man on Wire team about a Hamas activist who spied for the Israelis ensures the festival starts on a high. … Schirman’s film (produced by the team behind Man on Wire and Searching for Sugarman) is as gripping as any high-concept Hollywood thriller and as psychologically knotty as Greek tragedy.The Green Prince (named after Mosab’s Israeli codename) juggles archive footage with elegant reconstructions, while clearing centre stage for the engrossing testimonials from both Mosab and wily Gonen Ben Yitzhak, his Israeli handler.
Not content to be a mere political rallying cry, The Green Prince is a fascinating, exhilarating and fundamentally juicy story about espionage, persuasion and global affairs. Psychologists will crib from its lessons for years. The hook: the eldest son of one of Hamas’ founders was working as a Shin Bet spy for a decade. He was not angry at his family; he did not have a self-destructive streak. He did it because… well… exploring why he did it is what this movie is all about.
Should these reviews arouse your interest, pick up a copy of Son of Hamas. Then look for listings of The Green Prince when it reaches your area and go see it. Having encountered Mosab Hassan Yousef at a critical moment in his life, we can attest that his story is both real and transformative.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.