Synopsis: 

In Israel’s occupied territories, thousands of Palestinians work illegally as construction laborers. After an arduous and dangerous journey, loaded with blankets and bags, they cross the hills to the places where they can find employment. At night they sleep on the hillcrests in improvised huts and coffin-like sleeping cubicles, a stark contrast to the luxury apartment complexes they build by day. But they have made homes for themselves, complete with cosy pillows and even power generated by batteries they have scraped together.

In 9 Star Hotel, the filmmakers follow Ahmed and Muhammad, one a merry collector of found objects, the other a philosophical criticaster of the Palestinian character (“We think backward. We never think forward.”). Together, they share food, belongings and stories, and live under the constant threat of getting arrested – police, soldiers and the secret service are all tirelessly on the alert for illegal workers. With raw, handheld images, this disconcerting yet touching film documents friendship, nostalgia and the uncompromising urge to survive.

Technical: 

78 min, Israel 2006, Arabic/Hebrew

Director: Ido Haar

Cinematographer: Ido Haar

Screenwriter: Ido Haar

Editor: Ido Haar Initial Editing: Era Lapid 

Producers: Edna Kowarsky, Elinor Kowarsky – Eden Productions

  • Best Documentary, The Wolgin Competition, The Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel 2006
  • In Competition, The Joris Ivens Competition, IDFA International Documentary Film Festival, The Netherlands 2006
  • Official Selection, 30th Göteborg International Film Festival, Sweden 2007
  • Official Selection, 6th DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, Finland 2007
  • Official Selection, Adelaide Film Festival, Australia 2007
  • Special Mention, The Swiss Oikocredit Competition, 21st Festival international de films de Fribourg, Switzerland 2007
  • Special Mention, Alba International Film Festival, Italy 2007
  • Student Jury Award, 5th International Human Rights Festival in Paris, France 2007
  • Best Film in Human Rights Category, Buenos Aires 9th Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, Argentina 2007
  • In Competition, Tribeca Film Festival, USA 2007
  • Official Selection, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, Canada 2007
  • Audience Award, Documenta Madrid International Documentary Film Festival, Spain 2007
  • Best Documentary Film Award of Bayerischer Rundfunk and Telepool, 22nd Munich International Documentary Film Festival, Germany 2007
  • Feature Documentary Award ,DOXA Film Festival ,Vancouver, Canada, May 2007
  • Official Selection Freiburger Film Forum, Germany 2007
  • Official Selection, 27th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, USA 2007
  • Official Selection, 54th Sydney International Film Festival, Australia 2007
  • Official Selection, 56th Melbourne International Film Festival, Australia 2007
  • In Competition, 13th Shanghai TV Festival, China 2007
  • Official Selection, GUTH GAFA Documentary Film Festival, Ireland 2007
  • Special Prize for The Best Film on a Social Subject , the 6th edition of The International Documentary Film Festival CRONOGRAF Moldova, May 2007
  • Official Selection,True/False Film Festival,USA, March 2007
  • In Competition, – TekFestival Roma Italy, May 2007
  • In Competition,Ecofilm Rodos Greece, June 2007
  • In Competition, The 9th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, South Africa, July 2007
  • Social Documentary Golden Award , Shanghai TV Festival, China, June 2007
  • In Competition, DOCSDF- 2nd Internacional Documentary Film Festival, Mexico, September 2007
  • Best Documentary Feature Award , The Israeli Documentary Filmmakers´ Forum Competition, Israel, June 2007
  • Best Director Award , The Israeli Documentary Filmmakers´ Forum Competition, Israel, June 2007
  • Best Cinematographer Award ,The Israeli Documentary Filmmakers´ Forum Competition, Israel, June 2007
  • In Competition, BRITDOC Festival, UK , July 2007
  • Best Documentary Award & Best Human Rights Film Award , DOKUFEST Int’l. Documentary and Short Film Festival- Kosova,August 2007
  • Official Selection, The 8th Mediterranean Film Festival in Siroki Brijeg, Bosnia and Herzegovina September,2007
  • Official Selection, UK Jewish Film Festival,November 2007, London
  • Jury Award ,Slow Film Festival, Hungary, July 2007
  • Official Selection, Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico, October 2007
  • Official Selection, – World Doc Panorama International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema in Havana Cuba, December 2007
  • Official Selection, Amnesty International Film Festival, Canada 2007
  • Official Selection, Festival do rio – Rio De Janeiro International Film Festival, Brazil, September 2007
  • In Competition, 14th Independent Film Festival of Barcelona, l´Alternativa, Spain Nov 2007
  • In Competition, RIDM – Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, Canada, Nov 2007
  • In Competition, the International Human Rights Film Festival in Nuremberg, Germany October 2007
  • In Competition,international Film Festival Vienna, Austria, October 2007
  • Official Selection 10.1001 International Documentary Film Festival, Turkey, October 2007
  • In Competition, DOCUSUR Festival Internacional de Documentales,Tenerife, Canary Islands, November 2007.
  • b>In Competition, VERZIO Documentary Film Festival Hungary, November 2007
  • Official Selection, The Israeli film festival in Rome, Italy, November 2007
  • Official Selection, The 10th Annual Ethno Film Festival, Germany, November 2007
  • Nominee , European Film Awards; European Film Academy Documentary 2007- Prix Arte, Germany, November 2007
  • Official Selection, World Doc Panorama International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema in Havana Cuba, December 2007
  • In Competition, 11th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival,Czech Republic, October 2007)
  • Official Selection, IDFA International Documentary film Festival, Top 20 Audience favorites (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2007)
  • In Competition,Forumdoc.bh. 11º Festival do Filme Documentário e Etnográfico, Brazil , December 2007
  • Official Selection, Tiburon International Film Festival, USA, March 2008
  • Official Selection, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Film Festival, USA-Seattle, 2008
  • special mention of the jury , Play-Doc, International Documentary Festival, Spain, March 2008
  • Official Selection, Palestine Film Festival, UK-London, April 2008
  • b>Official Selection,Our Island, Our World Film Festival, Canada, April 2008
  • b>Official Selection, Muestra de Nuevos Realizadores- ICAIC, Cuba, 2008
  • Official Selection, Amnesty International Human Rights FF, Austrelia, March 2008
  • b>Official Selection, Documentary FilmPlatform ZONE, Belgium, March 2008
  • In Competition, III International Social Film Festival “Time to Live”-SPb, Russia, March 2008
  • Official Selection, Encuentros del Otro Cine, VII Festival Internacional de Cine Documental ‘EDOC’,Ecuador, May 2008
  • In Competition, 5th International Film Festival Jewish Motifs, Poland, April 2008
  • Special Mention, DerHumALC Festival, Argentina, May 2008
  • Official Selection, festival les yeux ouverts, France, May 2008
  • In Competition, São Paulo Jewish Film Festival, Brazil, August 2008
  • Official Selection, Jewish Film Festival London-Zagreb Croatia, June 2008
  • Official Selection, ISRAEL/ PALESTINA FILMWEEK, Germany, January 2009
  • Official Selection, Austria Human Rights Film Festival, Austria, December 2008
  • Official Selection, BorDocs FF, USA-Baja California, November 2009
  • Channel 2 (The Second Authority for TV and Radio), Israel
  • France 5, France
  • Humanistische Omroep, The Netherlands
  • TVOntario, Canada
  • SBS, Australia
  • YLE FST, Finalnd
  • TSR, Switzerland
  • TV2, Denmark
  • SVT, Sweden
  • POV, USA
  • TV Catalonia, Spain
  • EBS, Korea
  • The New Israeli Foundation for TV and Cinema
  • The Sundance Institute Fund

“’9 Star Hotel’ has been awarded Best Documentary for the way the director treated his subjects, through humanization of the characters and the highlighting of significant details” (The Wolgin Competition Best Documentary, The Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel 2006)

For its concrete and engrossing documentary depiction of Palestinian workers risking arrest in order to earn their livelihood, the international jury gives a Special Mention in the Swiss Oikocredit Award category to Ido Haar’s ‘9 Star Hotel’” (The Swiss Oikocredit Award Special Mention, 21st Festival international de films de Fribourg, Switzerland 2007)

“La Giuria ha inoltre scelto di rimarcare la qualità e l’originalità del film israeliano “9 Star Hotel” (Israele, 2006) di Ido Haar, per la capacità di raccontare con sguardo evocativo e non ideologico la quotidianità, la notte, l’ambiguità tra speranza e disperazione, violenza e ironia; per il ritratto di personaggi costretti a vivere e sopravvivere in una delle tante terre di nessuno”. (Special Mention, Alba Film Festival, Italy 2007)

“The first prize in the Human Rights competition goes to a film set in a charged and troubled region, the Middle East. Shot by an Israeli, it is an intimate portrait of a makeshift band of young Palestinian men caught perilously in-between: illegal workers hired by Israelis to labor by day, they are by night relentlessly hunted by the Israeli police. Through a first-person camera, we are allowed to share these men’s hardships as well as the furtive pleasures of their improvised community. The Palestinians’ situation is shown to entail exclusion but also a certain willingness for inclusion, intolerance but also a dream of integration, a sustained harassment but also a possible identification. Like the men it portrays, the film is filled with desperation but not hopelessness, tenderness and small epiphanies.” (Best Human Rights Film, The 9th Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival, Argentina 2007)

“A citation is due to director Ido Haar for his impressive documentary ‘9 Star Hotel’… Haar succeeded in gaining an intimate look at his protagonists’ lives. He skillfully draws a humane and universal portrait of his protagonists through their desperate efforts to win their daily bread and support their families in a mad and absurd reality” (Yehuda Stav, “Yediot Aharonot” 12/07/2006)

“The importance of ‘9 Star Hotel’ is the documentation of a society in crisis – the occupying Israeli society, and the occupied Palestinian one. The detailed form that Ido Haar chose for his work is a treasure for all who wish to understand the survival strategies of a society in a state of defense.” (Meyer Schintzer, “Ma’ariv” 12/07/2006)

“A documentary that unravels almost like a thriller, and at times seems like an absurd comedy; but above all it displays an alternative reality that exists side by side with Israeli reality, like a world of ghosts wandering around it.” (Uri Klein, “Ha’aretz” 22/02/2007)

“’9 Star Hotel’, by the talented director Ido Haar, is a film with a very strong political and social statement… but this is first and foremost a humane story, before the political one. Haar succeeds in turning the concrete, the local and the Israeli, to a universal saying, and in turning his film into a world-wide story, the story of workers following an unpaved road after the need to feed themselves and their families, perhaps on a way to a better future” (Gidi Orsher, “Israel-Defence-Forces Radio Station”, 15/07/2006

“A documentary filled with immediacy. Fascinating.” (Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times)

“Presents – without rancor and with deep pathos – the irony of dispossessed young men who would normally be lauded for eschewing violence and striving to make a living, but find themselves building someone else’s future.” (Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post)

“Outstanding! Both a work of art and a fine piece of reportage from, the unseen underside of the modern world.” (George Robinson, Jewish Week)

“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 determination to survive is inspiring.” (Ella Taylor, Village Voice)

I grew up in a village on the edge of a pine forest, half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. On my way home, I often saw men running franticly across the highway. The fear in their eyes haunted me and I wanted to find out where they are running to, and whom they are running from. I discovered that the forest – my own backyard – serves as a hideout for thousands of Palestinians looking for work in Israel. I found a secret camp on the other side of the forest, but didn’t find any people. Whenever I came around, they would flee. My persistence made them curious, and eventually they stayed put. Since then, I have been documenting a vibrant community of young men and the impossibly hard and strangely wonderful lives they live. My camera follows two best friends. Muhammad is the charismatic leader, the one who always has the answers. Ahmad is the childish one, the boy who wants someone to tell him what to do. I spend nights and days with them, experiencing, as much as an outsider can, a life of fear, uncertainty, madness, and grace; trying to understand how despite their circumstances, which to me seem unlivable – in the open, in the dark, exploited, away from home and family – they live and not only survive.