Essential Question: Why is finding joy important in times of stress?

When Moscow natives and filmmakers Sasha Kapustina and Masha Tishkova moved to Jerusalem in 2010, they began searching for the right way to portray their new homeland in film. Two years later, they learned how Israel has blazed a trail in professionalizing medical clowning through Dream Doctors, a privately supported program that oversees 110 trained medical clowns at 29 hospitals across Israel.

“We knew right away that they would be our story,” explain Kapustina and Tishkova, who have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $24,000 to fund the final stages of filming I Clown You.

“Their freedom, boldness and fearlessness; their ability not only to make a joke, but also to take one; their ability not only to turn things up side down, but also to step into the unknown without a judgment or expectation, and be open and vulnerable and make mistakes and keep going and make the best of it even when the odds are against – those are the things that the world needs more of,” says the documentary duo.

I Clown You (in English, Hebrew and Arabic) is a full-length feature about four therapeutic clowns in Israel.

Fulla, the first Arab-Israeli female Dream Doctor. Photo by Alexey Kudrik
Fulla, the first Arab-Israeli female Dream Doctor. Photo by Alexey Kudrik

For three years, Kapustina (now working in Los Angeles) and Tishkova followed Dori Klein and Noam Inbar as they accompanied patients in an isolation ward for six weeks over the course of bone-marrow transplantation; Fulla, the first Arab female clown working in the Israeli hospital system; and David “Dush” Barashi of Hadassah Medical Center, the “maestro of medical clowning,” as he balances life as a husband and father with life as a healer dressed in a red nose and clown shoes.

This bone-marrow recipient had the services of Dream Doctors duo Dori and Noam for six weeks. Photo by Alexey Kudrik
This bone-marrow recipient had the services of Dream Doctors duo Dori and Noam for six weeks. Photo by Alexey Kudrik

Last May, ISRAEL21c featured Barashi’s work entertaining child victims of the Nepal earthquake in Israel’s field hospital. Israeli research on professional therapeutic clowns has shown that their inclusion on a medical team has measurable benefits in pain relief, stress reduction and boosting immunity. They work with adult and pediatric patients, in operating rooms, emergency rooms and delivery rooms.

“Dush” on the job. Photo by Alexey Kudrik
“Dush” on the job. Photo by Alexey Kudrik

“The basic idea is simple — to make the experience of being in a hospital less traumatic for everyone — patients (both kids and adults), their loved ones, and also the medical staff,” says Kapustina.

“Coming from Russia, we always connected clowns to theater rather than the circus. We thought of them more as poignant philosophers rather than freaky carnies, tricksters rather than buffoons.”

For more information, click here.

*KEY WORD – Medical Clowning – Israel provides therapeutic medical clowning as an integrated component of care for adult and pediatric patients and their families. Learn more here.

What inspires you about this work? Are aspects of medical clowning scalable in your community? Continue the conversation on Facebook