Dancing in Jaffa (3 stars)

Dancing in Jaffa

Dancer Pierre Dulaine returns to his homeland in Hilla Medalia's doc

Ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine makes a naïve attempt to bring Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli children together via the medium of dance in this heart-warming but uneven documentary from Hilla Medalia. This also marks Dulaine's return to his city of birth Jaffa for the first time since childhood, and it’s a bittersweet homecoming.

The film spends a bit too much time in the company of Dulaine, who is in self-congratulatory mode for his good deeds. Antonio Banderas played him in the movie version of his life, Take the Lead, which sees him teach dance to a group of inner-city kids in New York. Here we watch the real Dulaine pondering the dilemma of why girls and boys of different denominations refuse to come together, as he sips red wine by candlelight. It’s pretty cringing.

Medalia does however enter the homes of a few of the students participating in Dulaine's 'Dancing Classrooms' programme and the progression of their friendships and dancing skills is charming to watch, showing that the programme does in fact represent a positive change in their lives. We meet Noor, a young girl with aggressive tendencies who misses her recently departed father and her journey is uplifting. We also meet Alaa, who lives in poverty and partners up with the better-off Lois, who was conceived through artificial insemination.

Dancing in Jaffa provides fascinating insight into the lessons the children are taught at school, including the importance of peaceful protest and how to handle the violence that the ongoing conflict inflicts on their everyday lives. Medalia's documentary extols the importance of tolerance and may appeal to a younger audience. The way she has pieced together her documentary makes it feel like a cross between the best parts of Educating Yorkshire and the worst parts of The X Factor, with it delivering a few questionable moments among the many highlights.

Selected release from Fri 13 Feb.

Dancing in Jaffa | Official Trailer

Dancing in Jaffa

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Hilla Medalia
  • Written by: Philip Shane, Hilla Medalia
  • Cast: Pierre Dulaine, Yvonne Marceau, Alaa Bubali

Heartwarming but uneven documentary about ballroom dancer Dulaine and his efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together through dance. Despite the film's self-congratulatory tone and some questionable moments, the progression of the kids' friendships is charming to watch and there are some fascinating…