What is truly remarkable and compelling about this Documentary is where it takes place and the principals involved. Israel, a slice of democracy in a hostile milieu has gifted movie goers outstanding films in recent years; films dealing intrepidly with controversial topics: religion, politics, families in crisis. “Lebanon”, “Lemon Tree”, “Restoration” and the superb Academy Award nominee “Waltz with Bashir” are a few renowned examples of superlative filmmaking.
“Dolphin Boy” is the touching and miraculous true story of a young boy living in an Arab village in Northern Israel: “Morad” seventeen, handsome, bright; he is content and loved by his pious Muslim parents and siblings. Disaster strikes when a note is confiscated and misinterpreted by his classmates, alleging inappropriate behavior with a female relative of one of the boys; he is catastrophically beaten, overcomes death, his body recovers but his mind has lost even a tenuous thread of sanity; incapable of speaking, manifesting all the symptoms of autism. The year is 2006.
Dr. Kurz, a psychiatrist specializing in post traumatic stress and dissociative behavior suggests, after months of futile analysis, and the refusal of Morad’s parents to place him in an institution, “Dolphin Therapy”. A contemporary and controversial treatment for children suffering from autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome. There are organizations in Florida, Mexico, Australia, Ukraine and Israel. Morad and his father Asad go to Eliat, on the Red Sea; Asad pledges not to return home until his son is cured.
The dolphins with polished, refined instincts rule their watery world; like Neptune, Poseidon, Naga they either accept or reject interlopers; Morad is a welcomed guest and steadily improves, becoming an admirable free diver. After three months and a monumental financial toll on his family, Morad speaks, reflecting “it was the first day of my life”. Morad improves but the positive is balanced with the negative: he falls in love with a Jewish girl, but still cannot contemplate a return to his village; he is fearful of seeing his mother and siblings and is haunted by heinous nightmares; he has erased and refuses to speak of the crime perpetrated upon him.
Mystifying is the ability of the dolphins to heal; is it a fallacy? Possibly, it is the power of acceptance that sooths the wounded psyche; not a modicum of hostility, just unquestionable love permeates a soundless cocoon; words are anathema, the gentlest caress from a slippery mammal provides an unfathomable, phenomenal, inspiring cure.