Could ballroom dancing be the magic bullet for the Israel-Palestine conflict? Judging from ‘Dancing in Jaffa’, it’s done more good than Middle-East envoy Tony Blair. This doc follows former ballroom dancing champion Pierre Dulaine, a dapper gentleman of a certain vintage and impeccable manners, as he arrives in the Israeli city of Jaffa to teach dancing to 11-year-olds. What he’s planning is a ‘Strictly’-style competition with mixed couples – Israeli and Palestinian kids dancing together. His problems start when some of the Muslim Palestinian boys and girls won’t touch each other (‘but I washed my hand’ says a boy forlornly).
The doc is a little scrappy, and you sense the filmmakers are engineering situations to suit their message. But it’s very sweet. My heart did somersaults watching Noor, a Palestinian girl grieving for her dad and suffering chronic low self esteem, making her angry and aggressive, as she blossoms into a mini-me Kara Tointon. And there’s a hilarious scene as a little Jewish girl tells a Palestinian boy that her dad came from a sperm bank – her mum steps in to explain what that means. And the final dance-off is gorgeous, with one proud mum in a full-on burqa filming it on her phone.