You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dolphin Boy

Gentle yet bracing, "Dolphin Boy" is a documentary about recovery and rebirth, set amid the kibitzing porpoises of southern Israel, which brought a traumatized Arab boy back to life after an assault that left him mute and unreachable.

With: Morad Azba, Asad Azba, Ilan Kutz, Shani Kinder. (Hebrew, French, Arabic dialogue)

Gentle yet bracing, “Dolphin Boy” is a documentary about recovery and rebirth, set amid the kibitzing porpoises of southern Israel, which brought a traumatized Arab boy back to life after an assault that left him mute and unreachable. Israeli helmers Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir take an understated approach to a remarkable story that could have lent itself to hyperbole, but benefits greatly from having its various twists and turns arrive without fanfare. A natural fit for nature-film auds and the edu-tainment market, the fest-decorated pic should also enjoy a buoyant homevid afterlife following its run at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.

The docu tells the story of Morad Azba, a teenage resident of an Arab village in northern Israel. After sending an innocent text message to a female classmate, Azba was abducted by her brother and his friends and savagely beaten. The experience left him traumatized to the point that he exhibits all the signs of severe autism, including an inability to make eye contact or respond verbally to anyone. That includes his father, Asad, who is clearly torn between wanting to take revenge and wanting his son back.

Asad Azba’s efforts lead him to Ilan Kutz, a Tel Aviv psychiatrist who attempts several methodologies with young Azba before resorting to what he admits is a crapshoot: dolphin therapy at a reef off the shores of Eliat. The results are dramatic and immediate: In some terrific underwater footage, we see Azba, legs dangling in the water, reaching for the dolphin who attempts to befriend him. It is, in its quiet way, electrifying.

It also suggests the story is over, which it most emphatically is not. Azba is a long way from total recovery, and his story still has several acts to go, including a sequence with his attackers that indicates just how brutal they are, and how filmmaking rules seem to differ in Israel. When the suspects attack the cameraman, their faces are scrambled, even though they’re in a courthouse and would be considered, in the U.S. at least, within the public domain.

“Dolphin Boy” is highly suggestive of “The Horse Boy” (originally titled “Over the Hills and Far Away”), a 2009 docu about a couple who take their autistic son to Mongolia, where the boy responds to horses in much the same way Azba does to dolphins. As an entry in this sub-subgenre of nonfiction animal-therapy films, “Dolphin Boy” reps a notable contribution.

Tech credits are fine, with Issar Shulman’s score being quite effective.

Dolphin Boy


Production: A Hey Jude Prods., Micha Prods. and Yonatan Nir Films presentation in association with Arte France and More 4. Produced by Dani Menkin, Yonatan Nir, Judith Manassen-Ramon. Directed, written by Dani Menkin, Yonatan Nir.

Crew: Camera (color), Nir, Yaron Levison, Yoav Kleinman, Uri Ackerman; editors, Tali Halter-Shenkar, Malenie Margalith; music, Issar Shulman; sound, Shimshon Yannay, Moti Hefez, Itai Alohav, Misha Spektor, Amir Harel, Idan Shemesh; sound designer, Micky Assa. Reviewed on DVD, New York, April 25, 2012. Running time: 72 MIN.

With: With: Morad Azba, Asad Azba, Ilan Kutz, Shani Kinder. (Hebrew, French, Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Oh Mercy

    Cannes Film Review: 'Oh Mercy'

    It takes more than just watching “Oh Mercy” to understand exactly why Arnaud Desplechin was drawn to the subject matter of his latest movie, a reasonably engrossing police procedural with roots in a 2008 TV documentary. Something of an unexpected detour in the veteran director’s weighty career, the film combines multiple strands to paint a [...]

  • Spielberg's Amblin Chief Jeff Small on

    Listen: Spielberg's Amblin Chief on Making 'Movies in the Middle'

    With the sequel “A Dog’s Journey” now in theaters, Amblin Partners continues to find ways to release the kind of films that aren’t typical of what dominates American multiplexes these days. An follow-up to the 2017 surprise hit “A Dog’s Purpose,” “Journey” is just another example of the cinematic strategy evident at Amblin, the production [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    French Animation 'I Lost My Body' Tops Cannes Critics' Week Winners

    “I Lost My Body,” a dark French animated film from writer-director Jérémy Clapin, has come up trumps in this year’s Critics’ Week program at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the strand’s top honor, the Nespresso Grand Prize. The film, which follows a young man’s severed hand as it struggles to be reunited with its own, [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

    The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit. Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That [...]

  • Forest Whitaker

    Netflix Teams With Forest Whitaker on 'Hello, Universe' Movie

    Netflix and Forest Whitaker are collaborating on live-action family movie “Hello, Universe,” based on the 2018 Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestselling novel by Erin Entrada Kelly. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Golamco (“Always Be My Maybe”) will adapt the book. Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station”) of Significant Productions will produce. The [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content