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Winnipeg International Jewish Film Festival screening documentary on May 29

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Solly Dreman with Don Bernard and Orly Dreman in Israel during the filming of “Unusual in Every Way”. (Photo: Supplied)

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On Sunday May 29 at 2 PM Central, the Winnipeg International Jewish Film Festival will be screening the documentary, “Unusual in Every Way”.

Unusual in Every Way” is a film about the unusual friendship between Prof. Solly Dreman, a former Winnipegger who made Aliyah to Israel in 1964 and established a career in clinical psychology and family counseling, and Don Barnard, a Winnipeg photographer and filmmaker who is a First Nations member. Yolanda Papini-Pollock directed this film with Don, whom she introduced to Solly in 2016. The documentary is framed around Don visiting Israel at the invitation of Solly and wife Orly.

Don comes from a socially challenged Indigenous background including 30 different foster homes, and was subject to violence and sexual abuse as well as outright discrimination in his adult life. This film is about that journey to Israel and his return to Canada with a message of hope for his people. It describes how the Jewish people recovered from their traumatic experiences and established the State of Israel, and compares those circumstances to the cultural and social genocide of First Nations people in Canada, who still struggle to recover.

TheJ.ca asked Solly Dreman for a few comments prior to the WIJFF event.

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Q: How has the reception to Unusual in Every Way been? Do you think its message has found an audience?

Prof. Dreman: The film has been received enthusiastically by  the public and film critics and was a runner up at the Toronto Alternative Film Festival this year as well as being acquired by several educational outlets for screening in both Canada and the United States.

Q: Don returns to Canada with a message of hope for his First Nations people. How can the Israeli experience provide tools to assist aboriginal communities to move forward?

Prof. Dreman: Don was impressed with how the Jewish people in Israel managed to create a vibrant and successful nation in spite of the many differences existing amongst them. In Canada the First Nations are also diverse and multicultural but they have not yet been able to bridge their differences and attained the unity to be an effective force for change in Canada. In Israel, Don experienced how the Jewish people in spite of  their differences manage to dialogue and resolve conflicts providing inspiration and hope for his own first nations people to recognize differences and still cooperate and be unified, a process which would lead to a more powerful, productive and influential social entity in Canada.

Q: What was the process like to work with the filmmaker, Yolanda Papini-Pollock and Don Barnard?

Prof. Dreman: We had our differences and disagreements but we managed to recognize them, dialogue and move forward just like the message Don hopes to bring back to his own people.

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Q: Jews in Israel also suffer from trauma and stress due to continued war and terrorism, yet the country is thriving.   In your estimation, how can the Israeli experience provide tools to assist aboriginal communities to move forward?

Prof. Dreman: Jews who have experienced the Holocaust have used the trauma and horrors of these events to utilize what psychologists call Post Traumatic Growth and instead of developing a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to psychological deterioration, have used the survival energies precipitated by the Holocaust to develop the flourishing and productive State of Israel. The aboriginal community might also through education and good leadership learn to turn the negative energy emanating from their ongoing frustration and anxiety into productive channels transforming them into a more productive and influential social unit in Canada.

Q: Many in the Jewish community in Canada are concerned about whether our leadership is capable of ensuring good relations with indigenous leadership, particularly at a time when so many First Nations members are radicalized by the progressive left to see Israel as a “colonialist project” of “white supremacy”. What should Jewish leadership be doing to counter the anti- Israeli rhetoric in Canada that indigenous people may identify with?

Prof. Dreman: Jewish leaders in Canada must emphasize how Israel has also made great efforts to assist Arab citizens living in Israel providing numerous opportunities in academia, the legal profession, high tech and other fields of endeavor. For example at Ben Gurion University where I taught, special scholarships were given to Bedouin female students for tuition and also for other expenses since they were perceived as instruments of social  and attitude change in the Bedouin family.

Q: In your story in TheJ.ca in September 2020, you wrote: “On a personal note, I have always had a profound interest in people. In fact, my Master’s and Doctoral theses were on the subject of “Altruism” – which perhaps reflects my own penchant for giving and living. I told Don that I planned to invite him to come to Israel, all expenses paid. In February, 2018, Don arrived.”

Is altruism eroding in our society (referring to the spirit of giving to help others with no conditions attached)?

Prof. Dreman: Although in many ways the younger generation has become a ‘me first’ generation, in Israel where survival is always on the line, the spirit of cooperation and unconditional giving is a survival mode with people giving their lives selflessly on the battlefield, in organ transplants, and many other areas of selfless reaching out to others to ensure the survival needs of this young nation state.

Don Barnard has had a difficult time in his personal journey to healing. As he says near the end of the documentary, he has his good days and his bad days – and he never knows when his disabilities will cause him to have a meltdown. Can you tell us how he is coping now and to what degree this film may have assisted in his recovery?

Prof. Dreman: Don still has his ups and downs but he is doing remarkably well these days as a videographer, film director, actor and many other areas of endeavor. Don is on the autistic spectrum as well as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has a genius IQ of 167 so those all factor into his recovery. My wife Orly and myself have in his eyes been his adoptive parents and on Mother’s Day he even refers to Orly as his favorite adopted mom. I am also in constant contact with him by Messenger Video and he views me as the father he never had.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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