New Israeli Movie Wins Big U.S. Distribution Deal

'Bethlehem' deals with the relationship between a Shin Bet officer and the brother of a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade commander.

Yuval Adler’s acclaimed debut film “Bethlehem” was sold over the weekend to Adopt Films for distribution in the United States. Adopt Films specializes in distributing independent American movies and quality international films.

Under the terms of the contract between Adopt Films and Westend Films, the movie’s international distributor, “Bethlehem” will be shown in at least 35 cities across the United States. Deals have already been signed for the film to be distributed in Japan, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Latin American, Australia and New Zealand.

The plot focuses on the complex relationship between a Shin Bet Security Service officer (played by Tsahi Halevi) and a Palestinian teenager (Shadi Mar’i), who is the younger brother of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade commander in the city. The youth sees the Shin Bet man as a father figure and tries to maneuver between the Israeli’s expectations of him and his loyalty to his brother; as a result, he lives a double life, lying to both of them.

“Bethlehem” had its world premiere during the Venice Days screenings at the Venice Film Festival. It was subsequently screened at the Toronto and Telluride festivals and is currently contending in the Haifa Film Festival’s official competition.

In announcing the deal, Adopt Films’ Jeff Lipsky and Tim Grady described it as the perfect political thriller. They said they’d been bowled over by the film when they saw it in Toronto, and were determined to bring it to American audiences.

Adler wrote the script with Ali Waked and the film was produced by Pie Films, with the support of the Israel Film Fund, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund and Yes. “Bethlehem” has been nominated for 12 Ophir awards, the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars, and opens in Israeli theaters on Thursday.

Vered Adir