Written, Directed and Produced by Yonatan Nir, Dani Menkin, Judith Manesson-Ramon
73 mins. Hebrew-Arabic with English subtitles.
Co-Produced with ARTE & Channel 4.
The opening sequence of this important, award-winning film, Dolphin Boy, is intriguing; stunning photography reveals the deep, sparkling,clear blue waters of the Eilat Reef, as a boy swims along accompanied by several dolphins - a graceful figure who moves and breathes like them in an elegant underwater dance. Only later do we discover that this boy, Morad, is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and has become mute and dissociated from the world of reality as a result of a severe beating by his schoolmates. The film was screened within the popular monthly ESRA Cinema Club, shown in Raanana to an overflow appreciative audience.
Dolphin Boy was shot over a period of four years, documenting the boy’s progress, as his psychiatrist, former Director of Psychiatric Services at Meir General Hospital, Dr. Ilan Kutz, treated him over a period of time with traditional methods of psychotherapy. Before committing him to a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Kutz decided to recommend the experimental method, dolphin therapy, which had proved successful in the past.
The boy’s father sells everything he owns and takes his son to Eilat, where he spends the next three years struggling to overcome his trauma and regain his identity as a functioning person.
The viewer becomes part of the emotional journey process, a testament to the writers’ and directors’ skill and empathy. The sensitivity and delicacy with which they have treated this boy’s harrowing experience and his long and arduous road back from emotional isolation is traced throughout with dramatic effect.
Dolphin therapy has been used to treat children with cerebral palsy and autism as well as victims of trauma like Morad. Studies have shown that dolphins have a preference for personal communication with humans, they have smiling faces and they like to be cuddled, all of which is very healing.
The film tracks Morad’s unusual connection to them. Adopting their characteristics, he swims like them, breathes underwater for minutes at a time and even, incredibly, releases air bubbles through his eye in the style of the dolphins.
The road to recovery is a long and wrenching one. Morad has to learn to trust again and as he responds to the gentle affection of the dolphins that nestle against him, he is finally able to speak again, but still erases his past, refuses to return to his small Arab village or to see his mother.
As his treatment continues it is documented by both Dr. Kutz and the therapists who work with the dolphins - a fortunate set of circumstances which allows the writers and directors to fully explore the entire process of rehabilitation.
After the film ended, Yonatan Nir, co-writer and co- director of the film, addressed the audience and told his story and how it was intertwined with that of the film. He had been working as a photographer at the Dolphin Reef when Morad arrived in 2006. Subsequently, he was wounded in the Second Lebanon War and after a few weeks he returned to work at the Reef. He recounted that he had been in a bad emotional state and that his encounter with the dolphins had been very powerful; as he had entered the water, six dolphins had arrived and remained with him while he dived. He knew then that Morad’s story had to be told from the beginning to the rewarding, successful healing conclusion. And the film, which has been screened with Morad's permission, is the result. It has received international acclaim.
Dolphin Boy debuted at Hot Doc, the Canadian International Documentary Festival, and has been globally recognized, winning and/or being nominated for many awards, among them: Jerusalem Film Festival (Special Mention award); Cinema for Peace (Green Oscar); Marseille Underwater Festival (Winner); Woodstock Film Festival; Washington Jewish Film Festival (Audience Award); DMZ Docs – South Korea; Syracuse Film Festival; Edge Documentary Film Festival – New Zealand; ZagrebDox-Croatia.
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