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Documenting a rite of passage in 'It's Better to Jump'

January 08, 2014|By Sara Cardine
  • Directors Patrick and Mouna Stewart, at their home in La Cañada Flintridge on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. The couple recently produced and directed an independent film called "It's Better to Jump."
Directors Patrick and Mouna Stewart, at their home in… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

While resolving conflict between colliding cultures in the Middle East is unlikely to occur in the very near future, La Cañada couple Patrick and Mouna Stewart believe change is possible, even if it has to happen one mind and one heart at a time.

To that end they have produced the documentary film “It’s Better to Jump,” which tells the story of everyday Palestinians coping with the increasingly difficult reality of living as minorities in their own homeland.

“This stresses the importance of being objective,” says Mouna Stewart, whose own family moved from the Gaza Strip in the ’60s. “The only change that can really happen comes when people can see both sides of the story.”

The film offers commentary from a cross-section of Arabs residing in the Northern Israeli city of Akka, a Mediterranean seaport known for the imposing Ottoman wall that circles its perimeter.

In addition to voicing thoughts on daily political realities, from discrimination and displacement to unemployment and diminished livelihoods, the film’s subjects discuss a rite of passage among Akkwali youth — jumping from the edge of the wall into the sea.

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“There is a direct correlation between jumping and life,” says female soccer star Haneen Nasser. “Jumping from the sea wall at the age of 7 gives you a certain level of strength to face your future.”

A Hollywood cinematographer with 30 years of professional experience under his belt, Patrick Stewart yearned to work on his own project, something that would provoke thought and potentially make a difference in the world.

His marriage to Mouna had opened his eyes to the plight of Palestinian citizens, millions of whom have become refugees in the wake of a 1948 order from the United Kingdom that granted their homeland be given over to create the nation of Israel.

The Stewarts began to conceptualize a film that would shed light on the Palestinian experience while touching on the sociopolitical issues that influence and, at times, confine Arabs.

In 2011, when a family vacation took them to Akka, the pair found exactly what they were looking for. They were eating at a waterside restaurant situated by the wall when they saw some children climb out to the edge and fling themselves into the sea below.

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