In The Green Prince, Mosab Yousef, the son of a Hamas leader, becomes a spy for Israel's Shin Bet while developing a relationship with a Shin Bet agent, Gonen Yitzhak. That synopsis sounds a like one which describes a Hollywood spy thriller, so the fact that it's actually a documentary makes it all the more surprising, taut and spellbinding. Great subjects help to make a great documentary, and in this case both Mosab and Gonen remain smart, articulate and compelling individuals. Their story as well as the dynamics of their relationship is filled with twists and turns much like that of a Hollywood thriller as well. Director Nadav Schirman blends talking-head interviews with both men, archival footage, and re-enactments to keep the story from being too dry, although given the film's rich content filled with inherent suspense, it would be very hard to make it boring. Schirman should be commended for selecting the right editors, namely, Joel Alexis and Sanjeev Hathiramani, who include smooth transitions between interviews and re-enactment footage while moving the pace along briskly enough without any moments that drag. At its core, though, The Green Prince, is a very timely, surprisingly heartwarming doc that shows how the virtue of human compassion can triumph over hatred, prejudice and other vices. It might be the most important documentary about Israeli-Palestinian relations since Promises. Music Box Films opens it at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. I Am Eleven is an underwhelming potpourri of interviews with 11 year olds who come from 15 different countries including Sweden, Morocco, Japan, Thailand, America, France and Germany, among others. Director Genevieve Bailey jumps around from child to child with some thematic connections intact, but once you start to become captivated on an emotional level, the transitions to the next child disrupt that waxing emotional resonance. Perhaps 15 children are just too many to focus on for 1 hour and 34 minutes; 7 or 8 would have been enough and allowed for some much-needed depth. As such, I Am Eleven bites much more than it can chew thus making it a squandered opportunity. To be fair, there are poignant, wise and even amusing moments, but they're far and few between. International Film Circuit opens it at AMC Empire 25 and City Cinemas Village East.
Archaeology of a Woman
Margaret (Sally Kirkland) suffers from dementia, and her daughter, Kate (Victoria Clark), agrees to move to upstate New York from New York City to take care of her. In the small town, Kate develops a romance with a Officer John (Karl Geary) while Sergeant Calder (James Murtaugh), someone important from Margaret's past, re-enters Margaret's life. Margaret and Sergeant Calder harbor a dark secret from their younger years that rises to the surface and haunts them.
Mysterious, suspenseful and foreboding, Archaeology of a Woman feels like a cross between a David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock film. At least one of the musical pieces in the soundtrack sounds reminiscent of the music from Hitchcock's Psycho. The screenplay by writer/director Sharon Greytak comes across as natural and concurrently unpredictable. Greytak includes some provocative symbolism, especially when it comes to the use of color. The ways that she incorporates the flashbacks are somewhat awkward and lead to some uneveneness, but that's a forgiveable flaw. Occasionally, you mind find yourself confused by what's happening and whether or not you should like Margaret given her past, but there's nothing inherently wrong with being confused. Greytak doesn't spoon-feed you with easy answers which is what makes this film all the more sophisticated and refreshing. The fact that the drama never veers into the realm of melodrama is a testament to the screenplay's strength.
The true heart and soul of the film is the unflinchingly raw, honest and tender performance by Sally Kirkland. She's mesmerizing to watch, and sinks her teeth into the role quite convincingly without giving a hammy, over-the-top performance. Given how much emotional nakedness she expresses onscreen, it probably wasn't easy to shake off this role emotionally Victoria Clark also impresses with a terrific performance. Their scenes together are quite emotionally engrossing, and they make for a very believable mother and daughter which further enriches the film's authenticity and humanity.