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Review: 'It's Better to Jump' is lopsided snapshot of the ancient walled city of Acre in Israel

The documentary "It's Better to Jump" is a provocative, if lopsided snapshot of the ancient walled city of Acre (or Akka), located on the northwest coast of Israel.

Told mostly via testimony from its large Arab populace, who denounce the so-called cultural and commercial "invasion" of their beloved town (its Old City area in particular) by Israelis, this brief film often feels like an extended gripe session instead of something more profound or game-changing.

There's a strong and complex story here, one whose conflicts hark back to the 1948 birth of Israel itself. But excluding input from any of the Israeli officials, entrepreneurs or investors accused of attempting to "cleanse" the picturesque Akka of many of its Arab citizens--often by offering irrefusable amounts of money to buy their homes--and turn it into a high-end tourist trap, mitigates the movie's powers of persuasion. Contextualizing Akka's issues, which also include poverty and wayward youth, amid other cases of urban gentrification may have helped as well.

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Producer-directors Patrick A. Stewart, Gina M. Angelone and Mouna B. Stewart found a candid, thoughtful cross-section of Akka natives, including artists, athletes, academics and business owners, to discuss living as a Palestinian in an Israeli-dominated state. The prevailing opinion: Due to alleged discrimination, they tend to feel like immigrants in their own hometown.

However, the film's chief spokesperson, Palestinian American Beshara Doumaini, director of Middle East studies at Brown University, although scholarly and articulate, may strike some as more inflammatory.

As for the title, it refers to Akka's famed ritual of jumping--or diving--off the town's towering sea walls and into the Mediterranean, an impressive, at times symbolic feat shown repeatedly here.


"It's Better to Jump."

MPAA Rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes. In English and Arabic with English subtitles.

Playing: At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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