Dancing in Jaffa

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Dancing in Jaffa Movie Poster Image
Uplifting docu promotes religious tolerance via dance.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 90 minutes

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Positive Messages

Dancing in Jaffa offers positive messages about religious tolerance, treating others with respect, commitment, the importance of music and dance, and the power of children to change the world. Compassion, courage, and empathy are all major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pierre Dulain is a strong role model, a male teacher devoted to teaching dance to students no matter their resistance. Though he has high standards and is sometimes impatient, he regards the children as his own and goes to great lengths, even risking his own safety, to teach them a skill he feels will foster confidence and social and religious tolerance. All the adults portrayed in the documentary are committed parents who care about their children's safety and development.

Violence

There's a persistent peril throughout the documentary due to the violence in the region where the documentary is filmed, as well as a few scenes of protest where there are religious chants such as, "Our souls and blood will be redeemed." In one scene, military police grapple with protesters. In others, adults talk of the harm done to loved ones, such as a sister-in-law blown up walking home.

Sex
Language

Casually explicit language, such as a girl remarking that her dad "will kill her" if he sees her with an Arab.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some casual cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dancing in Jaffa is a documentary about a ballroom dance teacher returning to his home in Israel to teach Palestinian and Jewish kids to dance together. There are some heavy themes: a girl whose father died when she was in first grade, casual discussions of relations between Arabs and Jews, wartime politics, protests, religious intolerance, and relatives who've met untimely deaths in the conflict in the region. Overall it's an incredibly open-minded, uplifting look at the difficulty of forging tolerance among even young children with an added emphasis on the value of dance, but young kids may not understand the politics.

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What's the story?

In DANCING IN JAFFA, world championship ballroom dancer Pierre Dulain returns to Jaffa, Israel, to teach kids a love for ballroom dancing, only there's a catch: He wants Palestinian and Jewish kids to dance together. Teaching elementary schoolers to respect the discipline of dance and form is one thing, but can he teach them to respect children from the other side when they've already been taught to despise them?

Is it any good?

This documentary works on multiple levels, promoting art as a source of self-confidence, while also teaching about religious tolerance, self-respect, and respect for others. For kids, there are some heavy themes here, such as the loss of a parent, military-style protests, and the constant threat of death in a war-torn region. But the lessons in Dancing in Jaffa are big ones: Children can be taught tolerance and may someday be the key to changing the fate of the region. Interestingly, the real power of Dulaine's message seems to be in reaching individual children in the film who lack confidence or an outlet and turning them on to an art form they'd never have been exposed to otherwise. That it also comes with humanizing children on "the other side" for them and fostering a new perspective on their differences is an incredible bonus.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what religious tolerance means. Do you know kids who practice other religions? What does it mean to tolerate them? How do the dancers in Dancing in Jaffa tolerate each other?

  • How did the kids handle being forced to interact with children from other religious backgrounds?

  • What did ballroom dancing teach the kids in the classroom? Do you think it will help them later in life? Why, or why not?

  • How does Dancing in Jaffa promote compassion, courage, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

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