The strife between Israel and Palestine has many human costs. One that seldom makes the evening news is the economic and social toll of closed borders, which have cut off many Palestinians from the commuter jobs they once enjoyed in Israel.
9 Star Hotel, a documentary by Israeli director Ido Haar, is a revealing look at their plight. Nowadays many Palestinians, especially young men, are in Israel illegally to work, especially at construction sites. The images Haar captures will remind many Americans of the U.S.-Mexican border. Haar follows a pair of Palestinian youths as they snake down the rocky hills after sunrise and sprint across freeways to get to work. At night they gather with other illegal Palestinian workers in shanties with jerry rigged electricity or little hovels made from cardboard and plastic sheets. They shave in the refection of glass shards and cook on the ground over open fires.
The young men Haar shadows with his hand held camera are like guys anywhere. They josh around, complain about parents, listen to music and talk about girls. 9 Star Hotel is not elegantly filmed or edited but its contents help to humanize one of the world’s most persistent problems. 9 Star Hotel won for Best Documentary at the Jewish International Film Festival.