The 18th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival at The Center for Jewish History from March 12-19, 2015 is a showcase for films about the Jewish experience in the Middle East and the greater Sephardic Diaspora.
Mon, Mar 16 the Festival screens Barry Salzman’s It Never Rained on Rhodes and Nissim Dayan’s The Dove Flyer.
Sephardi were originally from Spain, but the Spanish Inquisition dispersed them around the Mediterranean and around the world. In fact the first Jewish people in New York City were Sephardi fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Brazil. Thanks to them, New York is an open City that welcomes all peoples.
The New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival at the Center for Jewish History celebrates the best of Sephardic film. The Festival is produced by the American Sephardi Federation.
One of the important films in the Festival is Joel Novoa’s Venezuelan film God’s Slave. The Film’s story is loosely based on the 1994 AMIA Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This event has returned to the news with the unexplained death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, and the political crisis it has created in Argentina.
God’s Slave is a very good film about a suicide bomber and the Israeli agent trying to stop him. The film is a riveting thriller with an unexpected twist at the end. The story speaks both to the endless cycle of violence, and the possibility of hope. Change begins with one person, and that person is each of one of us.
The film’s star, Enrico Macias, will present the 2015 Pomegranate Award and give a live performance. Enrico Macias is a popular French Pied noir (French/Algerian) singer.
It Never Rained on Rhodes, Barry Salzman’s American film about the universality of loss, screens at 6pm.
The Dove Flyer, Nissim Dayan’s Israeli film about the Jewish exodus from Iraq, screens at 8pm in Arabic with English subtitles.
Before the Revolution, Dan Shadur’s Israeli film about Jews living in Iran before the Iranian Revolution, screens at 7pm in Farsi and Hebrew with English subtitles.
The Iranian Americans, Andrew Goldberg’s American film about Iranian Americans, screens at 9pm in Farsi and English with English subtitles.
24 Days, Alexandre Arcady’s French film about the true story kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi, screens at 6:30pm in French with English subtitles.
Jews & Money, Lewis Cohen’s French film about the stereotype that Jewish people have money, screens at 8:30pm in French and English with English subtitles.
The first closing night film is the U.S. premiere of Younis Laghari’s Moroccan film Moroccan Jews: Destinies Undone. The Film explores the reasons these people left Morocco. The Film is in French, Arabic, and English with English subtitles.
The second closing night film is Hanna Azoulay Hafsari’s Israeli film Orange People. The Film explores three generations of Moroccan women living in Israel and their struggle to both maintain tradition, and break free of the past.
The 17th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival runs from March 13-20, 2014. The festival opens with a screening of Antoine Casubulo Ferro’s 2012 French film “Enrico Macias: A Life in Song.” Enrico Macias will be present.
The festival closes with the New York premiere of Thomas Gilou’s 2012 French film “Would I Lie to You #3” (La Verite si Je Mens #3).
A Jewish pied-noir musician and singer, Enrico Macias, is a unique figure in the French musical landscape. A utopian, singing of love and friendship between nations, he has gradually become not only a messenger for peace, but also one of the most popular singers in France.
Director: Antoine Casubolo Ferro. France, 2012. 52 mins. French w/English subtitles.
Followed by the Presentation of the ASF Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement to Enrico Macias.
Claude and Isabelle, and their family travel to Brittany. They are all greeted with a particularly chilly attitude. North African Jews, Catholic Bretons, Parisians, provincial types: it’s not easy to get along. But, with humor and humility, bonds are formed.
Director: Phillipe Lellouche. France, 2012. 94 mins. French w/English subtitles.
Twenty years after a car accident, the legendary tar (lute) player Yosef Tawila is running a bar in northern Israel. The son (Dudu Tassa) of his band mate Avram, arrives with news that his father is dying. He brings notations for “The Weeping Springtime Symphony,” a piece Yosef and Avram worked on together but never performed. Yosef decides to reunite the band one more time to grant his dying friend’s final wish.
Director: Benny Toraty. Israel, 2012. 105mins. Hebrew w/English subtitles.
The prolific Joann Sfar has published 150 graphic novels, including the French bestseller, The Rabbi’s Cat. This portrait tracks his odyssey through the Algerian and Eastern European Jewish heritage that serves as the wellspring of his work.
Director: Sam Ball. USA, 2012. 56 mins. French w/English subtitles.
This beautifully animated film adaptation of Joann Sfar’s bestselling graphic novel tells the story of a talking cat and his philosophical musings on religion. It also reveals the colorful seaside world of 1920s Algiers, when Jews and Arabs coexisted in relative peace.
Director: Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux. France, 2009. 89 mins. French w/English subtitles.
Iranian-Jewish identity is explored through the stories of two women artists and activists. Orly Noy and Josephine Mairzadeh are engaged in creative work that attempts to create a bridge between Iran and Israel, and their identities: the Iranian and the Jew.
Director: George Itzhak. USA, 2013. 20mins.
Singer Rita Jahan Farouz immigrated to Israel from Iran with her family when she was eight years old. On the eve of her forty-ninth birthday, with tension between Tehran and Jerusalem looming, she records her first album in Farsi. An intimate portrait of a family missing their homeland and their extended family, now scattered around the world.
Director: Ayal Goldberg. Israel, 2013. 76mins. Hebrew, Farsi & English w/English subtitles.
Ronen and his girlfriend, Orit, have been dating for almost three years and her parents are demanding they either marry or break up. Ronen and his brother, Hay, are the stars of the much loved Handa Handa theatre troupe. Between tradition and modernity, we follow their story as we follow the brothers on the road with their show.
Director: David Ofek, Neta Shoshani. Israel 2013. 58 mins. Hebrew, English and Bukhari, Hebrew & English subtitles.
Followed by a discussion and special presentation with Dov and Hay Davidov!
The stories of five Greek-Jewish children who were saved by Christian families during the German Occupation. Their personal accounts of survival add an indelible humanity to the history and cover a wide range of issues
Director: Vassilis Loules. Greece, 2011. 115 mins. Greek w/English subtitles.
Renee Saltiel and Solon Molho grew up in one of the greatest Sephardic Jewish communities, Salonika, or Thessaloniki, in today’s Greece. 90,000 Jews lived there before WWII and by the time the Germans had rounded up the city’s Jews, almost none were left. Renee and Solon did manage to survive, thanks to a Spanish diplomat and some very brave Greek families.
Writer/Director: Edward Serotta. Vienna, 2013. 25 mins.
The 2,000 year-old Jewish community of Rhodes was almost destroyed when the majority of its residents were transported to Auschwitz on July 19, 1944. The film weaves together testimonies of three of the few Jews to have survived Auschwitz.
Director: Ruggero Gabbai. Italy, 2012. 52 mins. Italian w/English subtitles.
Dr. Vicki Shiran led a major social struggle for equal rights and for the advancement of Mizrahim in Israel for 30 years until her untimely death in 2004.
Writer/Director: Yitzhak Halutzi. Israel, 2012. 66mins. Hebrew w/English subtitles.
See Opening Night Film for details.
For 2000 years Jews played a major role in Iraqi society. Later they would be brutally driven out and virtually annihilated as a community. A young journalist from Baghdad sets out to write about the family of Linda Abdul Aziz, an Iraqi Jew who escaped to Israel in the early 70’s.
Director: Duki Dror. Israel, 2013. 65 mins. English and Hebrew w/English subtitles.
See Thursday, March 20 for details.
Did Franco defend the Jews? At the end of WWII, Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, and the president of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, thanked Franco for the assistance Spain provided to the Sephardic European Jews during the Holocaust. It includes testimonials from Sephardic Jews living in Spain today.
Director: Yolanda Villaluenga. Spain, 2012. 53 mins. Spanish w/English subtitles.
An investigation and reflection on the origins and survival in Spain of anti-Jewish prejudices, with the participation of fifteen experts in the field.
Director: Martí Sans. Spain, 2012. 73 mins. Catalan w/English subtitles.
Number 3 has these buddies in business as garment workers-cum-dealmakers trying to salvage their professional and personal livelihoods amid countless obstacles.
Director: Thomas Gilou. France, 2012. 115 mins. French, Mandarin, Hebrew, English w/English subtitles.
The Center for Jewish History is a partnership of five Jewish history, scholarship and art organizations: American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, New York, Yeshiva University Museum, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The Center is also an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Center for Jewish History opened in 2000 with a collection of over 100 million documents, 500,000 books and thousands of art objects, leading some to call it the Jewish Library of Congress.
The Center has a special focus on preserving records of Jewish immigration to New York City. Outstanding elements of its collection include the original handwritten copy of the 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus’ which is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor…”), Sandy Koufax’s Brooklyn Dodgers jersey, and a letter from Thomas Jefferson to New York’s oldest Jewish congregation.
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