Israeli filmmaker Yonatan Nir recently attended the Berlinale, after his documentary was nominated for a Peace Film Award at the film festival. Euromed Audiovisual caught up with him in Berlin to hear more about his path as a South Mediterranean filmmaker and about the award-nominated documentary that he co-directed and co-produced about the healing power of dolphins, Dolphin Boy.
"Greenhouse and Euromed Audiovisual brought me to walk the red carpet in company of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie!" says Yonatan, who participated in Greenhouse’s fourth year programme under Euromed Audiovisual II and signed a distribution agreement with First Hand Films at the Greenhouse final pitching forum in December 2009. “I don't know where the film would be today without having the Greenhouse coaching and support."
Nir came to filmmaking from photojournalism and marine photography. His photo essays from many countries have been featured in newspapers and magazines worldwide, and won numerous prizes, including the prestigious Asian Geographic Best Photojournalist of the Decade Award. He is an experienced diving instructor with over 3,500 dives, and used to work as the underwater cameraman at Eilat's Dolphin Reef, where he first heard the story of the "Dolphin Boy" that he and filmmaker Dani Menkin then made into a documentary. Having being injured by a land-mine himself during the second Lebanon war, Nir has personally experienced the therapeutic influence of dolphins on the human soul.
Nir tells us the story of Dolphin Boy: "Morad - a teenager from an Arab village in the north of Israel disconnects himself from humans following a violent attack that he experienced. As a last resort before hospitalization in a mental institution, he is taken by his devoted father to be treated with Dolphins in Eilat. Morad starts speaking again after months of silence, but he erases his past and refuses to go home to his awaiting mother. This documentary about the devastating havoc that human violence can wreak upon the human soul, and about the healing powers of nature and of love, was filmed over the course of the past four years.”
The film hopes to inspire people to seek a solution for peace in Israel-Palestine: "Dolphins can see the heart and the inside of a body, the skeleton of a human being, not his identity, race or religion. He only looks at him as a human being,” he says. “I wish we could apply this and the same attitude in Israel."
Nir is currently directing and co-producing Cutting Away the Pain, a documentary about a soldier, who amputates his leg in order to release himself from a mysterious pain syndrome, and from feeling of guilt related to an event in his military past.
Dolphin Boy is supported by The Second Israeli Authority, ARTE, Channel 4 UK and The New Foundation for Cinema & TV, Israel. The film was commissioned by DRTV Denmark.