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My Hero Brother
Film Review
"My Hero Brother" –
A Tribute to the Human Spirit

Beverly Cohn

film poster for 'My Hero Brother'
Down syndrome young men and women off on an arduous two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down brothers or sisters. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother," a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome siblings. My Hero Brother won the Best Documentary Film Award and the Audience Choice Award at the festival, as well as awards in Israel.

Brilliantly directed by Israeli filmmaker Yonatan Nir, the genesis of the project began with co-producer Enosh Cassel, who eventually initiated the concept. He wanted to get closer to his brother Hannan, who has Down syndrome, and decided to take him on a journey to Nepal. On his return to Israel, he was contacted by other families with Down syndrome siblings who wanted to have the same experience. Eventually, plans were formulated for a group of siblings – Down and their non-Down brother or sister – to embark on a two-week trek through the Himalayas. That unbelievable experience became this extraordinary film.

Hannan Cassel with his brother Enosh
Hannan Cassel with his brother Enosh who inspired this extraordinary adventure. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

brothers Golan and Harel in a playful moment
Golan and Harel have a playful moment. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

Under these physically demanding circumstances, even a "normal" person would have a challenge traversing some of the really difficult trails. There were dramatic special moments such as when the adorable Tzlil said she couldn't go on any further because her legs hurt. Her sister Shaked was patient and understanding and after a comforting discussion, she agreed to continue, but riding a horse instead of walking. Smiles all around. Another poignant scene was when one of the Down young men started to cry saying that he wanted his mommy or daddy. He was lovingly consoled and eventually agreed to rejoin the group. But, despite the occasional emotional or physical breakdowns, encouraged by their non-Down siblings, and the loving group, no one wanted to turn back and eventually, when they reached the summit, they emerged triumphantly, overcoming the physical and psychological challenges inherent in this disorder.

Tzlil and sister Shaked
Tzlil became discouraged when her legs began to ache, but her sister Shaked came up with a happy solution – to ride horseback. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

Amar and his sister Irene at the Summit
Amar and his sister Irene are elated as they reach the Summit. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

the group at the Summit
Despite the physical and mental challenges, in a triumphant victory, this extraordinary group reached the Summit. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

My Hero Brother is exquisitely shot by cinematographer Yoav Kleinman, augmented with a warm musical score by Ehud Banai, which includes the enchanting theme song: "It's Time to Go." The story takes you into the minds of these beautiful Down syndrome people and, through overcoming their physical and emotional challenges, illuminates the depth of their willpower, capacity to love, intelligence, and their deep caring for both their siblings and for each other. This is not a sad film. On the contrary, it's incredibly uplifting, very funny at times, and a universal, heart-warming tribute to the determination of the human spirit.

Director Yonatan Nir, with his cinematographer Yoav Kleinman, shoot a scene with Sagi and Nitzan
Director Yonatan Nir, with his cinematographer Yoav Kleinman, shoot a scene with Sagi and Nitzan, who although being married, were also accompanied by each of their siblings. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

Remarks by director, Yonatan Nir, sums up the intent of the film as follows:

Israeli filmmaker Yonatan Nir with his two awards at the Santa Barbara Film Festival
Israeli filmmaker Yonatan Nir at the Santa Barbara Film Festival where his documentary "My Hero Brother" won two awards – Best Documentary Film Award and the Audience Choice Award. Photo: Hey Jude Productions

"In the course of the film, I hope that the viewer will undergo an experience that will change his way of looking at the main characters – not as ill-fated people who have been given a chance to experience a brief release from suffering – but rather as human beings blessed with qualities many of us yearn to have, struggling with their limitations in an highly admirable and courageous way, with the ability to open the hearts of those around them and turn them into better human beings."

Distributor: Hey Jude Productions
Written By: Yonatan Nir & Tali Goldenberg
Directed By: Yonatan Nir
Producers: Yonatan Nir, Enosh Cassel, and Itamar Peleg
Journey Leader: Itamar Peleg – Travelog
Cinematography: Yoav Kleinman
Musical Score: Ehud Banai
Genre: Documentary – Filmed in India
Language: Hebrew with English Subtitles
Length: 78 Minutes
The Siblings: Amar & Irene, Arye & Osnat, Golan & Harel, Hannan & Enosh,
Ilan & Inbar, Irit & Lilach, Reuy & Moran, Sagi & Nitzan, Tzlil & Shaked,
Yehuda & Dan,

Contact filmmaker for information

Name: Required
E-mail: Required
City: Required

Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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