Sometimes we forget how culturally different Ashkenazi Jews are from Sephardic Jews. A good way to help remember and celebrate the Sephardic culture, which has its roots in Spain and Arabia and now dominates much of Israeli society, is to check out a Jewish film festival that focuses specifically on films that explore Sephardic issues and communities. The biggest one in the US, the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, will be taking place soon, from March 15th through the 22nd. So if you live in or near New York, you should mark your calendars now.
The opening night film is “Free Men,” a new movie directed by Ismael Ferroukhi, which tells the true story of Arab students who fought against the Nazis in occupied Paris during World War II (see photo above; right). The Muslim resistance to the Holocaust is a story hardly told before and is considered taboo in the contemporary Arab world.
This is only one of fifteen movies that will play at the festival. Another film of note is “The Last Jews of Libya,” a documentary that looks at the centuries-old Sephardic community in North Africa which was brought to an abrupt end in the middle of the 20th Century. The final, painful years are seen through the personal recollections of the Roumani family, one of the last families to leave.
The festival is presenting a number of feature films that sound quite interesting. Among them is “My Lovely Sister,” a recent Israeli film about the love-hate relationship between two Moroccan sisters; the movie won two Ophir Awards (the Israeli version of the Oscars). Also, “Mabul” is about a boy who is about the become Bar Mitzvah who must deal with his parents’ divorce and an autistic brother. And “Little Simico’s Big Fantasy” is about a romantic man who wants to make a movie about strippers (see photo above; left.)
The festival, which is now in its sixteenth year, will include a number of documentaries and award presentations. Panel discussions with directors, screenwriters, and scholars will follow the screenings.
Most of the films will be shown at the Center for Jewish History at 15 W. 16th Street in Manhattan; “The Last Jews of Libya” will screen at the JCC in Manhattan, located at 344 Amsterdam Ave.
The festival is presented by the American Sephardi Federation and co-sponsored by the Yeshiva University Museum. Tickets to most screenings cost $13, though festival passes and discounts are available.
For further information, and a complete schedule, check out the festival’s website: