My husband, Ron, recently had the opportunity to view the film, My Hero Brother, directed by Yonatan Nir (documentary, 77 minutes). Here are his thoughts --
I was pleased to have been able to view My Hero Brother last week at a special event hosted by Nefesh B'Nefesh, a group that brings new Jewish immigrants to Israel, and Shutaf, a wonderful organization dedicated to inclusion of young people with disabilities in Israeli society.
This was one of the most beautiful and inspiring documentary films that I have seen in a long time. Superbly filmed and edited -- with many heart-warming interviews, a great sense of humor, and magnificent views of the Himalayas of northern India — this film, directed by Yonatan Nir, told the story of 10 siblings from all over Israel who took their brother or sister with Down Syndrome on an amazing trek to the mountains. These siblings, who were all ordinary people who simply decided to join this adventure for personal reasons, developed or strengthened the bonds between them and their brother or sister, in beautiful and transformative ways.
Following the screening, in a discussion with one of the producers of the film, Enosh Cassel, (Enosh is the Hebrew/Biblical word for "human being"), we learned about the origins of the film. He had taken his brother Hanan, a young man with Down syndrome to Nepal on a trek in 2011, to the mountains of Nepal. His brother loved the trip, and they discovered that both of them loved being in motion. When they returned to Israel, Channel Two became interested in their trip and made a short documentary film about it. Little by little, siblings with brothers or sisters with Down syndrome began to contact him and it took him 2 years to put the group together: 9 Down Syndrome young adults and their siblings (usually 1, but in one case 2 brothers) and 1 married couple (with Down). He contacted Itamar Peleg, who guides these kinds of treks to the mountains in many places in the world, and they put the trip together.
The film focuses on the stories of 3-4 siblings and their Down syndrome brother or sister. These stories are very real and very human. They show profound love for brother and sister, which is deeply strengthened by this trek, despite all the obstacles and difficulties inherent in such an adventure. According to Enosh Cassel, the relationships between the siblings totally changed after this project. And, the group continues to meet. In March, they will go together to the Hermon mountains in northern Israel.
As I viewed this film, I could not help but think about so many other films (and newspaper reports) that I have seen about "the ugly Israeli", the one who litters on nature tours, the one who steals towels and faucets from hotels in Turkey, the one who is engaged in corruption and gross materialism, and more. In contrast, this was a film about beautiful people, and I don't mean their external looks. It was about wonderful and genuine people who are doing God's work in healing rifts between brother and brother, and sister and sister, and who show in simple yet profound ways the power of love and dedication that can emerge when brothers and sisters take risks and are prepared to engage in a life-changing journey.
I loved this film, and had a good cry or two. Everyone in the audience walked away inspired and in awe of the power of simple acts of love and compassion of those who dedicate their lives to their brothers and sisters.