9 Star Hotel
Directed by Ido Haar
May 23 through June 5, Film Forum
The heavy irony implied in the title of Israeli filmmaker Ido Haar's vérité documentary barely covers the dire living conditions of the Palestinian illegal laborers who stream daily into Israel to do the dirty work on construction sites, then huddle in the hills by night awaiting police sweeps. A sympathizer who grew up near where the workers hide out, Haar managed to gain sufficient trust from a group of these youths to follow them around with a handheld camera. Like all good political documentaries, 9 Star Hotel is more anthropology than agitprop, a portrait of life among the young, poorly educated men who are caught between Israeli exploitation and Palestinian Authority corruption. Their bleak prospects are as painful to watch as their determination to survive is inspiring. A slim ray of hope: The movie has been a surprise hit in Israel, where it won Best Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Now, about that separation wall. . .