Special Interview: A Film by Nitzan Rozenberg 2012
Distributed by Ruth Diskin Films Ltd., P.O.Box 7153, Jerusalem, 91071, ISRAEL
Produced by Asaf Finkelstein and Ynet
Directed by Nitzan Rozenberg
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
Learning Disorders, Israel
Date Entered: 10/30/2013Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
The story documented here concerns two twenty-something Israelis, Efrat and Matanel, both what we would deem “special needs” people, as they pursue their dream to interview U.S. President Barack Obama. After completing a course of training in journalism at the Shalva Children’s Center in Israel, Efrat and Matanel launch careers as press corps interviewers, with continued support from the Center’s specialist staff members.
Efrat Dotan has Down’s Syndrome. She is all too aware of being perceived as an outcast by the people around her. She expresses the universally felt desire to be accepted and loved, and has ambitions to be able to live a good life, although she knows that her condition imposes severe limitations on the realization. Matanel Bitton has developmental disabilities. He is much less outgoing than Efrat. At one point in the film, Efrat asks Matanel to compliment her. He tries to express his feelings, which are deeply felt, but he cannot utter a word. Eventually, he comes up with a simple phrase, which she accepts joyfully in spite of its brevity.
The two youngsters dream of interviewing President Obama. They start practicing their profession with on-the-street-interviews at local markets. They are aided by Center staff in obtaining interviews with Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu. No one tells them what questions to ask their subjects and they show that they think deeply about current issues by framing good questions. Efrat explains that she works as a school aide and is paid very little. She asks Mr. Peres if he thinks that is fair. He replies firmly that it is not, and that she deserves to be paid more. Matanel asks both leaders about the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas (this part of the film is dated). Both give encouraging replies, but Mr. Netanyahu’s is considerably more carefully worded.
Turning to FaceBook to obtain greater exposure and clout, Efrat and Matanel gain enough publicity and public support to obtain tickets to the United States, where they hope to meet Obama. In addition to sightseeing with their Shalva companions, they pursue every angle they can think of, including meeting with the newly elected head of the Jewish Agency in New York and traveling to Washington to attend an AIPAC conference. They close in on the goal, sitting in the same room with Obama at the conference, but he exits and departs for Europe before giving them the anticipated interview. They weep over their failure, but learn the difficult lesson that they have to recover and move on, rejoicing over what they did accomplish.
Special Interview is heartbreaking as it portrays the lack of understanding most of us have for those with special needs. But, more importantly, it reveals that at heart, special needs people are just like the rest of us and truly deserving of our empathy—not just pity.