Film Review: ‘It’s Better to Jump’

It's Better to Jump Review

This thin, well-intentioned documentary functions best as a travel promo for the beautiful Palestinian coastal city of Akka, in northern Israel.

“It’s Better to Jump” focuses on native residents’ fears that historied Akka (aka Acre) might become a pristine Europeanized resort town “empty of its own citizens” — at least the Arabic ones, currently being pushed out by Jewish settlers, immigrants and developers. It’s ironic, then, that this well-intentioned docu functions best as a travel promo, with its handsome widescreen photography of the beautiful Palestinian coastal city in northern Israel. Otherwise, the pic feels awfully thin at feature length, growing repetitious and padded despite the complex history and political issues involved. Reception will be modest for its theatrical openings Nov. 22 in New York and Dec. 6 in Los Angeles.

Known to be inhabited since about 3000 B.C., the area became an important port and trading center, its walled perimeter (first built during the 12th-century First Crusades, then rebuilt several centuries later) holding off Napoleon among other would-be invaders. The Old City that wall encompasses has been designated a World Heritage Site, one noted for longstanding harmoniousness among its primarily Muslim and Christian population.

But Arabic residents — some of whose families have had the same homes for centuries — complain that in recent decades, there’s been a concerted campaign toward the “slow torture and death of a society” (theirs), its goal being an eventual “ethnocracy” of Israeli Jews. Their numbers have halved within just the last decade, variously pushed out by the Israeli authorities’ control over building/repair permits, employment biases, and inflated property buyouts that poor citizens can hardly refuse.

Even treasured historical sites have been put on the auction block to be rehabbed as luxury hotels and such. Though primarily a Muslim city since the 7th century, much of Akka’s Arabic citizenry was displaced after its capture by Israel in 1948. Today less than one-third of the Old City’s inhabitants are Arabs, and their traditional fishing-based economy has been squeezed out by military water rights, pollution and regulation.

Various citizens attest to Akka’s cultural vibrancy and importance while lamenting its gradual evolution into what they fear will be one of the most exclusive (and expensive) places in the world. “Here we will stay, God willing” many say, sounding none too hopeful.

The directors haven’t drawn particularly interesting material from their interviewed residents and experts, however, and the historical/political contexts are hastily skimmed through. Pic barely squeaks past the one-hour mark, already overstretched, only to clumsily extend another 10 minutes with tagged-on material that includes a limply humorous debate about the significance of hummus.

The title comes from a somewhat dangerous plunge off the seawall that is a favored rite of passage for locals. This “leap of faith” provides a rote visual metaphor for their struggle, with the docu’s here predictably consisting of several minutes’ diving footage.    Lensing shows off the architectural and natural beauties of the area. But the three director-producers’ inability to come up with stronger narrative or thematic organization makes “It’s Better to Jump” play like the professionally polished side product of a vacation stay.

Film Review: 'It's Better to Jump'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 20, 2013. Running time: 73 MIN.

Production

(Documentary) A Patrick Stewart Prods. presentation. Produced by Gina M. Angelone, Mouna B. Stewart, Patrick A. Stewart, Alejandro Trevino. Executive producers, Angelone, Mouna B. Stewart, Patrick A. Stewart.

Crew

Directed by Gina M. Angelone, Mouna B. Stewart, Patrick A. Stewart. Screenplay, Angelone. Camera (color, HD), Patrick A. Stewart, Ahmed Masry, Omer Yadgar; editors, Alejandro Trevino, Yuseff Shehedeh; music, Dafer Tawil; sound, Patrick A. Stewart; sound editor, Trevino; sound designer, Ash Witt; re-recording mixer, Cliff Hahn. 

With

Makram Khoury, Abdu Matta, Anton Shullhut, Waleed Kashash, Beshara Doumani, Laura Mansour, Nora Mansour, Samia Kazmouz, Kher Fody, Abu Yusef Fakief, Reem Hazan.

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  1. Ruth, your tone is a little colonialist I’m afraid. You reveal yourself as the offended overlord who resents the protest of those who in reality have little power, like the Indigenous tribes in North America, the Aborigines in Australia, the Tibetans in China, the Irish and Scots under English rule in centuries gone by, and even to some extent our tangata whenua/ Maori in New Zealand. Harper Lee taught us that we cannot fully understand the Other until we step into his skin and walk around. I know some Palestinians living here in New Zealand and have heard their responses to claims like yours.

  2. Ruth says:

    Mr. Harvey, I am astonished by some of the so-called facts contained in this biased review.

    All citizens in Israel, Muslim, Christian and Jew, have the right to protest, complain and fight for their civil rights. For some reason you seem to believe that Akka, or Acre in English, is still a part of mandate Palestinian but it has been an Israeli city since the Independence War of 1948. It is not situated in the Palestinian terrorities on the West Bank or Gaza and your comments vis-a-vis “Jewish settlers” are beyond ridiculous. In Israel Jews and Muslims can live wherever they like and the Jews living in Acre are not settlers! We are a democracy, unlike the countries surrounding us. The city’s town council has Muslim and Jewish representatives and to present the city as being “Palestinian” is simply ignorant. They are all Israeli citizens and enjoy the rights that our country offers. These include the right to protest change which may alter their way of life. The Arab citizens in Acre enjoy the same benefits and rights as the Jewish citizens in Acre but they both face changes and development in an ancient city. Does anyone imagine that Acre should remain a city without sewage facilities or without basic services?

    Acre is a multi-racial city of Israeli Muslims and Israeli Jews who live together in harmony. Yes, there is development but having visited that city many times, I know that building on historic sites is strictly regulated. The Crusader Castle etc. is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this preservation is for the benefit of all the citizens of Acre. The city now boasts beautiful hotels owned by Israeli Muslims who benefit from the flow of visits to the World Heritage Site.

    I have no problem with the film presenting the problems faced by the citizens of an ancient city which HAS to progress in order to survive. I’m sure that the Israeli Muslim residents of the city have justified arguments and have the right to fight to protect change which affects their way of life. This happens all over Israel and Jews as well as Muslims have to face up to the authorities’ plans for change. It is even happening in my local area which is mostly Jewish. We are fighting building plans, have hired legal aid etc. and hope to stop the planned change. This is called democracy and exists in all democratic countries and to present the situation as being “the Jews destroying the Palestinian way of life” in the “Palestinian city of Akka” is pure BDS BS.

    It is important that documentaries present problems faced by communities and I have no doubt that the Israeli Arabs resident in the Israeli city of Acre have real problems with development. It is important that documentary filmmakers examine and present the rights of all citizens in every country. Readers may not know that almost 22% of Israel’s population is non-Jewish, i.e. Muslims, Druze, Circassian, Christian etc. and considering the tensions and difficulties, problems are resolved in a relatively civil way. They enjoy equal rights in our society including the RIGHT to protest, unlike the situation in the neighbouring Arab countries.

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