It's Better to Jump: Film Review

A surfeit of talking heads induces torpor in this too one-sided documentary.

This impassioned documentary concerns the economic and cultural clashes occurring in the ancient Israeli city of Akka.

The sight of young people happily jumping from a massive stone wall into the sea provides a welcome visual respite from the parade of talking heads on display in It’s Better to Jump. This documentary about the ancient northern Israeli city of Akka delivers an impassioned message about its Palestinian residents’ dismay at its increasing gentrification and their diminished status at the hands of the Israelis. But directors Patrick Alexander Stewart, Gina M. Angelone and Mouna B. Stewart have failed to construct the often emotional personal accounts into a compelling film.

“It’s a cultural invasion,” declares one interview subject. Other interviewees are a Brown University professor and numerous Palestinian residents, including a fisherman, a tour guide, a former professional boxer and even a pair of female rappers. Most of them strike the same bitter notes about the rising real estate values that are forcing them out of the homes that their ancestors have inhabited for centuries. Expensive condominiums and hotels are being built at a rapid rate to transform the city into a tourism mecca.

At the same time, younger Palestinians are often forgoing school and languishing in unemployment, while the local fishing industry, formerly a thriving concern, is suffering because of the increasingly polluted waters.

The filmmaker’s sympathies are made clear through the absence of dissenting voices, with no Israeli residents heard from. The film thus suffers from an unfortunate agitprop quality that detracts from the forcefulness of its arguments.

The central metaphor concerns the 40-foot-high seawall built by an Ottoman ruler in 1750 to protect the city from foreign invasion. It worked extremely well for centuries -- even Napoleon wasn’t able to get past it. But now it mainly serves as a rite of passage for young people who make it a point of honor to jump from it into the Mediterranean Sea below. It’s a strong visual motif in an otherwise frustratingly static film.

Production: Patrick Stewart Productions
Directors/executive producers: Patrick Alexander Stewart, Gina M. Angelone, Mouna B. Stewart
Screenwriter: Gina M. Angelone
Producer: Alejandro Trevino
Director of photography: Patrick Alexander Stewart
Editor: Alejandro 
No rating, 72 minutes