The Heart of Jenin

The death of a Palestinian boy becomes a conduit of life for three children in Israel in Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter's remarkably balanced docu "The Heart of Jenin."

The death of a Palestinian boy becomes a conduit of life for three children in Israel in Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter’s remarkably balanced docu “The Heart of Jenin.” The Israeli media made much of the news in 2005 when Ismael Khatib donated his son Ahmed’s organs, and helmers Geller (Israeli) and Vetter (German) leapt on the story. Straightforward docu’s made-to-order subject can’t fail to set eyes quietly welling with tears, making it perfect fare not just for Jewish fests but for the smallscreen, too.

Little Ahmed was playing with a toy gun when he was killed by an Israeli soldier. Dad Ismael Khatib agreed to donate the organs: As if by Solomonic decree, one kidney went to a Bedouin boy, one to an Orthodox Jewish girl, and the heart to a Druse child. Docu follows Khatib, now director of a children’s center in Jenin, as he travels from the Occupied Territories to visit the organ recipients in Israel. Pity the Orthodox family is so hateful. Helmers struck gold with Khatib, whose sad, intelligent eyes bespeak indescribable grief. Music tries too hard to pull emotional strings.

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The Heart of Jenin


Production: An Eikon Suedwest production, in cooperation with SWR, in collaboration with ARTE. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Ernst Ludwig Ganzert, Ulli Pfau. Directed, written by Leon Geller, Marcus Vetter.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Nadav Hekselman; editor, Saskia Metten; music, Erez Koskas. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Ici & Ailleurs), Aug. 13, 2008. (Also in Jerusalem Film Festival.) Original title: Das herz von Jenin. Arab, Hebrew, English dialogue. Running time: 93 MIN.

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