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I was having dinner with my Eli and Madaleine one night when Eli brought up the topic of Wadi Rum. He explained that he had been working on developing a climbing route there for the past three seasons and he was excited to share it with us. After explaining his connection to Wadi Rum and Jordan’s history with Israel, I knew this story would be about more than climbing. I was inspired to create a film that would capture his love for the place and people there. Mass media too often reports on conflict and violence in the Middle East, I envisioned an alternative story—exploring the vast desert of sandstone towers and our welcoming encounters with the local people. And that was exactly what happened. Tourism is the major source of income for the Bedouin and throughout this project it felt like we and our Bedouin hosts were working towards a shared vision for Wadi Rum’s future.
While editing this film, I strayed away from the classic objective-driven adventure narrative; instead bringing attention to the more subtle essence Wadi Rum. As I would watch the climbers struggle to establish their new route, I was always pulled back out into the desert, creating sequences that were driven by sounds of the wind, the call to prayer, the kids playing soccer or learning to raise goats, the stillness of time. In the end, I chose a back-and-forth quality of these two intersecting realities; allowing for what I hope is a more complete interpretation of what if felt like to be there, engaged in this journey together.
An adventure that crosses both realms of climbing and culture can be a profound experience for a climber. Already the media from this film has attracted new explorers who are excited to experience this place, its people, and the world-class landscape that Wadi Rum has to offer. I hope this film continues to generate positive awareness of this place and of the Bedouin community who live there.
Set in the expansive landscape of Jordan’s distinctive national park, “Wadi Rum” documents the unlikely story of two Israeli climbers, an affable Bedouin Muslim, and a professional American climber as they work together to complete a climbing route up Wadi Rums’ largest rock formation.
Three years ago, Israeli climbers Eliav (Eli) Nissan and Elad Omer began working on the ‘Sultan El-Mujahidin,’ in an effort to re-introduce this area back into the modern climbing community. In the final stage of this project, American-Climber Madaleine Sorkin arrives to help them finish the job. Led by Bedouin guide Mohammad Hussein, Eli, and Elad this film documents the creation of the ‘Sultan El-Mujahidin; interwoven into glimpses of daily Bedouin life.
Emerging filmmaker Henna Taylor combines breathtaking imagery, meditative editing, and the relationships of these four unlikely friends into a profound documentary that reminds us that the imaginary walls we create can often prevent us from understanding a simple beauty that lays waiting just beyond.
Henna Taylor strives to capture basic moments of humanity while creatively weaving them into every story she tells. Whether she is making short promos or long-form documentaries, interviewing a subject in a quiet setting, or shooting an adventure film off a rope 1200 feet off the ground; these simple moments embody Henna’s work. Henna is known for her enthusiasm to learn, her engagement in every aspect of storytelling. Her films are the product of this wonder and curiosity. .
Eliave Nissan was born in 1959 in St. Louis, Missouri to Israeli parents. He grew up in Jerusalem and began climbing after his time in the Israeli army, when he moved to Boulder, Colorado. For the past seven years Eliav has been returning to Israel in the winters and spending considerable time explore Wadi Rum, Jordan, establishing new climbing routes and deepening friendships with the local community. When not on a climbing trip, he designs and builds custom furnishings. .
Madaleine Sorkin, born in 1982, is a professional American rock climber who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She travels to climb long, difficult rock walls from Colorado to California, and internationally in Kyrgyzstan, Patagonia, Jordan and Canada. She had several first or early free ascents up to 5.13+ on Grade VI (multi-day) rock walls, often in female teams and in remote areas. She works as a rock guide certified through the American Mountain Guides Association. At the heart of her climbing are the partnerships, wild dreams, struggle and humor that make the pursuit meaningful. .
Mohammad Hussein is a Bedouin born and raised in Wadi Rum, Jordan. He us owner and founder of Wadi Rum Adventures, a local tourist operation. Mohammad leads and organizes adventure trips for clients from all across the world, ranging from climbing tours to off-road trips in the Jordanian desert. He is also owner of Wadi Rum Adventure Bedouin Camp, where he hosts and guides visitors in the ways of traditional Bedouin hospitality. .
Elad Omer is a certified climbing guide, certified by the Israeli Climbers Club (UIAA sanctioned) and the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). In recent years, Elad has climbed, opened routes and successfully led expeditions and climbing trips on four continents; including five successful Israeli expeditions to the Indian Himalayas and to Hanuman Taiba. .
Alon Brookstein is a climber, photographer, and pilot based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Alon first took an interest in photography at a young age; using his grandfather’s old camera. He was immediately drawn to the possibility of sharing and cherishing his experiences. Today, combining all of his passions, he takes photos and makes films using camera and drones while standing on ledges or having from anchors while climbing all around the world.