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The Little Traitor


By Joe Tropea | Posted 4/1/2009

Set in 1947 Jerusalem, months before the formation of the state of Israel, The Little Traitor is a coming-of-age drama that follows the friendship that develops between two enemies. Twelve-year-old "Proffy" (short for professor because he's so smart) Liebowitz (Ido Port) wants nothing more than for the British to leave Palestine. Proffy spends his after-school hours with friends plotting against them: painting anti-British slogans, organizing a cell called Freedom or Death, even making a nail-filled roadside bomb. Out after curfew one night, and despite repeated warnings from his stern father (Rami Heuberger), Proffy is literally scooped up by lubberly Sgt. Dunlop (Alfred Molina). Rather than hauling him off to the clink, Dunlop returns young Proffy to his house where his father angrily awaits. After a weeklong grounding, Proffy finds himself beguiled by Dunlop's kindness and seeks out his company at the hotel where the Brits spend their off-duty hours.

The two form a friendship. Dunlop, enamored of Jewish culture, teaches Proffy to play snooker and debates Western political ideology with him. Proffy, in return, gives him Hebrew lessons, and is floored to learn that Dunlop is familiar with the Book of Samuel. All is not fun and games though. Proffy is discovered visiting Dunlop by his friends who followed him after he failed to show up for one of their botched capers. Brought before a council as a traitor but found not completely guilty, Proffy is shunned by nearly everyone he knows. Hopelessly lonely, he realizes that his "enemy" has been more of a friend than those he had considered his friends.

Little Traitor ventures into serious shlock when Sgt. Dunlop's tour of duty ends and he is shipped back to Britain. Lone cub Proffy is left to find a new object on which to shine his affections: girls (specifically, girls' breasts). Director Lynn Roth returns the movie to steady ground with a reenactment of U.N. Resolution 181 and the jubilant Israeli reaction, with archival footage of celebration in the streets of Jerusalem cut with Proffy's family and neighbors' elation providing a highlight. Curiously missing, though, is any hint of the Palestinian residents who inhabited Proffy's Jerusalem.

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