Sunday, November 6, 2022

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Dead Sea Guardians

I’m delighted to be returning for the eighth time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of thought-provoking and often difficult, complex, Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 16th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually and in-person November 3rd-10th, 2022.

Dead Sea Guardians
Directed by Ido Glass and Yoav Kleinman
Ticket Information

The best way to unite people who are inherently at odds is to find a common cause that isn’t necessarily related to what it is that divides them. In the case of the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the recession and gradual decline of the Dead Sea is one such issue. “Dead Sea Guardians” represents a rare and welcome uplifting approach to cooperation, following the joint efforts of an Israeli, a Palestinian, and a Jordanian to raise awareness about the dire situation of the Dead Sea.

The three protagonists of “Dead Sea Guardians” come from very different backgrounds. Israeli Oded Rahav, Palestinian Yussuf Matari, and Jordanian Munqeth Meyhar meet and agree to work together to plan a swim across the Dead Sea to show the world that saving this body of water is one of the most crucial action items of our time. They seek to invite swimmers from all across the world to help bring more attention to their environmental cause, but what remains most important, particularly for Rahav, the initial organizer, is that all three of the primary swimmers are involved and make that extremely meaningful journey in friendship on behalf of their nations.

While the Dead Sea is internationally well-known, the dire state of the lowest place in the world is not nearly as prominently-discussed. Rahav and Meyhar both deliver well-researched presentations about why this is happening and what specific steps by all three countries can be taken in order to counteract the damage and try to save the sea before it is no longer possible. Visual aids throughout the film help to illustrate the grandeur of the situation and to show how the symbolic task that Rahav, Matari, and Meyhar are setting out to accomplish will encourage people to learn more about what they can do to help the cause.

There are obstacles that present themselves in the run-up to the big day, including bureaucratic hold-ups that prioritize other items and preemptively expect a lack of cooperation from other governments. While Matari expresses few reservations about teaming up with Rahav, Meyhar mentions that his wife is Palestinian and that she has no desire to participate, skipping a get-together of the families of the swimmers that shows the enthusiasm Matari and Rahav’s entourages have for this effort and particularly for their swimmers. The documentary’s cinematography aids in the overall effect of the film, which manages to convey the passion of its subjects and the call to action they are so energetically transmitting.


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