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Down Syndrome Siblings Tackle Himalayas

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Down Syndrome Siblings Tackle Himalayas

Interview with documentary filmmaker, Yonatan Nir

"It's not about the mountain."

--Edmund Hillary

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Director Yonatan Nir with Ztlil Oriel, one of the film's protagonists, India, 2013
(Image by Yonatan Nir)
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My guest today is Yonatan Nir, director of the documentary film, My Hero Brother. Welcome to OpEdNews, Yonatan.

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Joan Brunwasser: Your film won the best documentary and audience choice awards at the 2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival as well as the Best International Director Award at the DocEdge Film Festival in New Zealand and several other awards. And I was lucky enough to see it at the recent Israeli Film Festival in Chicago.

The subject matter is quite intriguing: 11 young adults with Down Syndrome and their siblings take a two-week trip to India, including a mountain trek, high in the Himalayas. How did you happen upon this story?

Yonatan Nir: In 2012, I was finishing another film called Dolphin Boy and were looking for my next project. One evening, I watched the Israeli news and saw a report about this young Israeli named Enosh Cassel, who took his brother Hannan, who has Down Syndrome, on a one on one journey to Nepal.

I grew up on a kibbutz and with me in the same class was a girl with Down Syndrome. I always liked her so this was not entirely new for me, but something in the brotherhood between Enosh and Hannan moved me from deep inside.

Fast forward a year or so later, i got a phone call from a friend who told me about this group of young people with DS who were planning to go to India with their siblings.

It turns out that many people who have siblings with special needs saw the same report I saw and contacted Enosh. Together with his friend Itamar Peleg, who has a travel company, they founded this group and raised money to go all together on this trip.

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I joined them one or two months later with my crew, aiming to create a documentary about their journey to the Himalayas and through that, to dig into their special relationship with their siblings.


detail from movie poster
(Image by Yonatan Nir)
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JB: I'm wondering how this works. Did they contact you? Or did you reach out and say, "Hey, I heard about this, it looks great and I'd like to film it?" And if it was you who made the first move, were Enosh and Itamar concerned about how the trip and its participants might be affected by being filmed?

YN: They thought it was a good idea to document the trip and actually had contact with a few other filmmakers that were interested but they didn't find the right one.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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