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Solly Dreman

Don Barnard (middle) with Solly Dreman (right) and Solly's wife Orly Dreman (left)

Orly Dreman and Don Barnard

Recommended Documentary-Unusual in Every Way-Explores the Friendship Between Israeli Psychologist Solly Dreman and Don Barnard, an Indigenous Man with Disabilities -Screens May 29 at Winnipeg International Film Festival

by Penny Jones Square, May 6, 2022



[Editor's note: Following the screening of the film Unusual in Every Way, there will be a Q&A period with Don Barnard and Yolanda Papini-Pollock who produced and directed the film as well as a light refreshment in the lobby.]

The premier screening of Unusual in Every Way, the most recent documentary film by Yolanda Papini-Pollock, Winnipeg filmmaker and executive director of Infilm Productions Inc., and Don Barnard, co-producer, co-director, and videographer, will take place at the Berney Theatre during the Rady JCC's Winnipeg Jewish Film Festival at 2:00 p.m. on May 29, 2022. (It is also possible to buy tickets to see the films in the Festival online).Like their previous films, Unusual in Every Way also explores the dark reality of human suffering but in a surprising and unique story. It documents the struggles Barnard experiences as an Indigenous man living with disability and ravaged by the intergenerational trauma plaguing his people, and it shows how his unusual friendship with Solly Dreman, an Israeli professor of clinical psychology, and a visit to Israel opened him to the possibility of hope for himself and his people.

A child of a Holocaust survivor and a refugee fleeing persecution and expulsion from an Arab land, Papini-Pollock grew up in a community of refugees in Israel amidst ongoing wars, conflict, and terrorism and so was sensitized early to human suffering. Her deep concern for the tribulations of the persecuted is the driving force in all her films, whether it be survivors of the Holocaust, the genocides of the Yazidis, Rwandans, and the Falun Gong, or of the cultural genocide of the Canadian residential school system. Through her representations of pain, loss, and trauma, Papini-Pollock seeks to inform and empower her audience to act for a better future, to repair the rupture of these failures of humanity.

The film is an adept interweaving of Barnard’s story of abuse, disability, post-traumatic stress, and discrimination—interspersed with commentary by medical specialists in autism and psychotrauma, clinical psychologists, and a genocide expert—and the story of Israel’s founding and survival told through commentary by first- and second-generation Holocaust survivors. The miracle of Israel’s creation and survival, following the horrific trauma of the Holocaust, exemplifies for Barnard the very real possibility of recovery both for himself and his people. Barnard’s hope resides in his own people coming together as Jews have done, defying victimhood and despair to build a thriving and growing nation. He believes that by uniting as a people, recovering pride in identity and culture, and together pursuing justice and supporting one another, he and his people may defeat their ongoing burden of trauma.

The surprising friendship between Barnard and Dreman began with a serendipitous meeting instigated by Papini-Pollock. When Dreman was looking for a videographer to film the lecture he was coming from Israel to deliver in Winnipeg in 2015, "Immigrants, Refugees, and Terrorism: Is There Hope?,” she suggested Barnard. A friendship was immediately forged. Dreman, moved by Don’s support of Israel and by his story, invited Barnard to stay with him and his wife Orly in Israel and tour the country in 2017. The couple became for Barnard the family he never had, the family he could only dream of. And they were able to show him what family, love, and acceptance can do to combat the harms he suffered as a result of his autism, chronic post-traumatic stress, abuse, and discrimination.

We learn firsthand of the struggles Barnard endured from his narration, which are further expounded upon by the Honourable Dr. Jon Gerrard, an expert in autism and disability; Israel W. Charny, an Israeli psychologist and genocide expert; and Dr. Brom, a clinical psychologist and expert on trauma and resilience in the face of terror and disaster. The counterpointing narratives of first-and second-generation Holocaust survivors emphasize the possibility of surviving trauma. In the aftermath of the total genocide of the Holocaust, the survivors chose life, took pride in their identity, and built a prosperous and growing country. They did so by being united in their sense of mutual responsibility, recognizing there is more that unites than divides them as a very diverse people. 

As General Eliezer Shkedy, former commander of the Israeli Air Force and second-generation survivor, says in the film: “Unity is the foundation of our success in surviving. Our mission now is to stay united; otherwise, there will be another catastrophe of our own making.” Inspired by Shkedy and other interviewees, Barnard decided to create a film to share the lessons he learned in Israel with others suffering ongoing trauma, particularly his own people.

In addition to being captivating from start to finish, the film serves its purpose well, successfully showing how growth after trauma is possible; we learn that what is required in this are unity and devotion to survival.


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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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