RM’s new International Film Club shows “Dancing in Jaffa”


Photo courtesy of Flickr under Creative Commons

RM students view “Dancing in Jaffa” at the first meeting of the International Film Club.

Grace Burwell, News Writer

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the International Film Club premiered “Dancing In Jaffa,” the first of many international films the club hopes to present this year. “Dancing in Jaffa,” a documentary by award winning, Emmy-nominated director Hilla Medallia, focuses on world-renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine. It tells the story of how Dulaine decided to teach Israeli Jewish and Palestinian youth to learn to dance together in his birthplace of Jaffa, Israel.

The film, which was released in 2013, details the rivalry between the Palestinians and Jews who coexist in Jaffa. “As most people know, there is a lot of tension between those two groups of people and there has been tension in Israel for the longest time, especially since Israel was established as a country,” IB program coordinator and club sponsor Nancy Shay said. “A lot of people feel that the Israelis came in and took land that had already been occupied by the Palestinians.” This is part of what “Dancing in Jaffa” explores during its 90 minute run time.

In the film’s trailer, Dulaine explains how the challenge of teaching children from opposing cultural groups to dance together was like “asking them to dance with the enemy.” However, in the end, the children benefitted. “He uses ballroom dancing as his vehicle for delivering kinship, camaraderie, and hopefully, ultimately peace between these two [groups of] people,” Ms. Shay said.

“Dancing in Jaffa” demonstrates several qualities that are important to the International Film Club. “This movie shows someone who, through his actions, is trying to make a difference and make the world a better place, so I thought it was a perfect role model for what we’d love to see our students do,” Ms. Shay said. “If we can teach ourselves how to be smarter, more perceptive viewers, I think we can be smarter, more perceptive readers, not only of written texts, but of the world and one another.”

Ms. Shay, who started the International Film Club this year with IB film teacher Michael Arenas, described how it could contribute to the RM community. “One of the facets of being an IB world school is the “I” in IB, which is international,” said Ms. Shay, “and I thought, why don’t we have an international film club?”

“Most people disregard international films because they have subtitles,” said junior Nadine Wetzler, who is part of the International Film Club, “you don’t gain much from a narrow point of view, so I hope students can grow to appreciate international films and understand that they will probably gain more knowledge than just the plot.” Wetzler, who is also taking IB film this year, pointed out many factors that impact the public’s perception of international films.

“There are so many more things we can learn from international films, not only just in the filmmaking itself, but we can learn about cultures without a filter,” said Wetzler. Clearly, “Dancing in Jaffa” is one of those films. Currently, the club only has a few students but is open to anyone who is interested.

The club meets every month to watch an international movie after school, and hope to expand student engagement with the international community. Their premiere movie, “Dancing in Jaffa” depicted an important and rare story in the midst of conflict. “Clearly, dancing isn’t the solution to all of the world’s problems, but it’s a start,” said Ms. Shay.