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Shablul Bamidbar (2008)

 -  Documentary  -  June 2009 (USA)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 15 users  
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In the picturesque Israeli Negev desert lays the Bedouin Village of El-Sayed. It has the largest percentage of deaf people in the world yet, no hearing aids can be seen because in El-Sayed ... See full summary »

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Title: Shablul Bamidbar (2008)

Shablul Bamidbar (2008) on IMDb 7.5/10

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In the picturesque Israeli Negev desert lays the Bedouin Village of El-Sayed. It has the largest percentage of deaf people in the world yet, no hearing aids can be seen because in El-Sayed deafness is not a handicap. The tranquility of the village is interrupted by Salim El-Sayed's decision to change his deaf son's fate using the Cochlear Implant Operation. This bionic implanted chip, that can make deaf people hear, is slowly reaching more secluded areas, even to El-Sayed which has neither paved roads nor electricity. Salim's decision is evoking great conflict in the village threatening the tradition of coexistence between deaf and hearing. "Voices from El-Sayed" is a unique and moving documentary offering us intimate cinematic dialogue with El-Sayed's marvelous silent people. Written by Oded Adomi Leshem

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Change comes to the world's largest deaf community

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Documentary

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June 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

NerusenĂ© ticho  »

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€100,000 (estimated)
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Lots of footage but no direction
26 July 2009 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

Shablul Bamidbar (2008), directed by Oded Adomi Leshem, was shown in the U.S. with the title "Voices from El-Sayed." El-Sayed is a Bedouin village in Israel's Negev desert.

These Bedouins are no longer nomadic--they live in communities and have a reasonably good relationship with the Israeli government. The director lived for months in El-Sayed, and obviously obtained hour upon hour of potentially great footage.

This could have been a fascinating documentary about Bedouin culture, the effect of modernization on this culture, and the interaction of the Bedouins and the Israelis. Even more interesting is the fact that many people in El-Sayed have an inheritable form of deafness. (Apparently, the people in the village are fairly sophisticated about the genetics of the condition--one village elder draws an inheritance pattern in the sand with a stick.) The problems and decisions faced by the deaf villagers would be excellent material for a documentary.

The problem as I see it is that Leshem couldn't figure out how to take his footage and turn it into a unified film. We see some interaction among villagers and some discussion about deafness. This material is interspersed with interesting (and touching) footage of a young boy who has received a cochlear implant.

There are a few fascinating scenes of interaction between the boy's parents and the staff in the highly sophisticated Israeli audiology center. There are some touching scenes as the boy's family members try to teach him that the sounds he's now hearing are words with meaning. But these scenes appear to be random snippets. They don't really appear to be integrated into the rest of the movie.

Debate rages in the U.S. about whether it's appropriate to take a child out of the deaf culture and place him or her into the world of the hearing. This controversy is hinted at in the film, but not really explored.

All in all, a disappointing film that had great potential that wasn't realized. My guess is that a more skilled director and editor could have made an excellent movie if they could have decided what film they wanted to make. Taking endless footage and then randomly splicing scenes together is not the way to make a great documentary film.

We saw this movie at the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival, but the film will work well on a small screen. The Festival organizers provided a person using sign language to meet the needs of the hearing impaired--a good touch.


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