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New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival Lineup

By Maria Esteves - January 14, 2010
The 14th Annual 2010 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (NYSJFF10) commence February 4 - 11, 2010, at the Center for Jewish History. The festival sponsored by American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House (ASF) and Yeshiva University Museum, annually celebrates the rich, vibrant history, customs and culture in Sephardic Jewry cinema.

This year's 20th Anniversary of the festival's inception honors NYSJFF founders Dr. Janice Ovadiah, Mr. Morrie Yohai, and Israeli filmmaker Haim Shiran with the ASF Pomegranate Award. The official lineup of films at NYSJFF10 includes 13 features, documentaries, and shorts, along with Q&A sessions, gala receptions, and special events (Opening Night, Closing Night). For further information and to purchase tickets, please call or visit

NYSJFF10 Official Lineup: OPENING NIGHT New York Premiere of COCO, directed by Gad Elmaleh, on Thursday, February 4, 7:30 PM, precedes the Opening Night Gala reception. CLOSING NIGHT New York Premiere of CHILDREN OF THE BIBLE, directed by Nitza Gonen, on Thursday, February 11, 7:00 PM, precedes the Closing Night Gala reception.


COCO, written, directed and starring Gad Elmaleh, a flamboyant self-made man who becomes a royal pain when planning the biggest show to date - the bar mitzvah of his son Samuel. This event will become, for him, a moment of truth about his role as a father and for realizing what is important in life. France | French w/English subtitles | 2009 | 95 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere.

A MATTER OF SIZE, co-directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, Herzel, a 340-pound chef living with his mother, is frustrated by the relentless pursuit of slim and perpetual diet groups and fitness regimes. All that starts to change when Herzel discovers the one place where fat guys can be rock stars -- the world of sumo wrestling. France, Germany, Israel, USA, UK | Hebrew, Japanese w/English subtitles | 2009 | 92 min.

HONOR, directed by Haim Bouzaglo, portrays two Moroccan organized crime families that suffer the tragedies of their respective lives. Israel | French, Moroccan, Hebrew, w/English subtitles | 2009 | 90 min. | NYSJFF10 U.S. Premiere | Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Bouzaglo.

LEON: A NEW ENCOUNTER, co-directed by Jack and Margalit Matitiahu. The northern Spanish town of Léon, rich but little-known Jewish history, is revealed through testimonies, interviews and fascinating stories. Among those are the life of the Jewish Kabbalist and philosopher, Moses de Léon; the excavations at Puente del Castro revealing a 10th century Jewish settlement; and Agaden - the mystical spot among the Aquilianos, where a group of banished Jews got lost on their way to Portugal. Spain | Spanish/Ladino with English subtitles | 2008 | 90 min. | NYSJFF10 U.S. Premiere | Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Margalit Matitiahu.

MASHALA, directed by Cyrus Sundar Singh, documentary follows Canadian singer Ellen Gould Ventura on a journey of spiritual and musical discovery through Sephardic song. Joining forces with a group of gifted musicians from Chile, Morocco, Italy and Venezuela, Ellen created the band Mashalá, which performs Sephardic music – a haunting blend of Jewish and Arabic sounds. Canada | 2008 | 46 min. | NYSJFF10 U.S. Premiere.

! FIESTAREMOS!, directed by Kathleen Regan, An intimate look at the important efforts of musician Judy Frankel, whose work with many Sephardic communities helped to preserve and extend their rich musical tradition. The film follows Frankel’s journey from folk singer in Boston in the sixties, to her work with medieval and renaissance consorts. USA | English with songs in Ladino | 2008 | 30 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere | Post-screening discussion with Samuel Thomas, performer, ethnomusicologist and executive director of AsefaMusic.

REVIVRE (Rebirth): Part I, directed by Haim Bouzaglo, an epic drama following the challenging journey of Jewish families from Poland, France, Morocco and Algeria making Aliya to pre-state Israel in 1946/1947. On their way, they endure major obstacles trying to fulfill their dream and rebuild their lives in a Jewish state. Israel, France | French, Moroccan, Hebrew w/English subtitles | 2008 | 184 min. | Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Bouzaglo and refreshments.

REVIVRE (Rebirth): Part II, directed by Haim Bouzaglo, the turbulent journey continues as some of the families arrive in pre-state Israel, while others are held at a work-camp in Cyprus. In their new place, tensions grow between Arabs and Jews, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and between secular and religious. Israel, France | French, Moroccan, Hebrew w/English subtitles | 2008 | 160 min. | Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Bouzaglo.

ACROSS THE RIVER, directed by Duki Dror. Moshe Rachamim searches for a way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Israeli Ethiopian community. Against the "silencing" policy of the Public Health Authority and the denial of the Ethiopian community, Moshe sets out to expose the disease and stop it from spreading. A journey back to his isolated village in Ethiopia reveals a story about a curious young man, who marked the way to the exodus of the Ethiopian Jews, and now feels he must save his community. Israel | 2009 | 60 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere.

SALVADOR: THE SHIP OF SHATTERED HOPES, directed by Nissim Mossek. On the night of December 3, 1940, at the Black Seaport of Varna, Bulgaria, the Salvador - a rickety, old, sail-powered coal freighter - is finally towed out to sea and 352 Bulgarian Jews begin their voyage to Palestine. Ten hellish days later, the vessel is shattered to pieces on the shore, not far from Istanbul. Most of its passengers are lost at sea. While some of the survivors return to Bulgaria, most struggle on towards their original destination against all odds. Israel | Bulgarian, English, Hebrew w/English subtitles | 2006 | 70 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere. Post-screening discussion – tbd.

PILAR OF SALT, directed by Haim Shiran. Based on the autobiographical novel by sociologist Albert Memmi, this drama captures the cultural richness and social complexity of a Jewish boy's life in Tunisia. Thirteen-year-old Alexander grapples with the conflicting pressures from surrounding French and Arab societies. A story about childhood, family ties, and community with insights into class, colonialism, and religious conflict. Israel | Hebrew w/English subtitles | 1979 | 58 min. | 20th Anniversary Reprise. Post-screening discussion with ASF Pomegranate Award winner filmmaker Shiran.

AZI AYIMA (Come Mother), directed by Sami Shalom Chetrit. The filmmaker embarks on a journey with his mother in search of classmates from her elementary school, the Alliance, which she attended 60 years ago in the little village of Gurama in the Tafilalt region of Morocco. Through their stories of past and present, Morocco is reconstructed and comes to life through vivid memories. It is a story of transition, cultural crisis, social survival and also lots of faith, optimism, joy and dignity, told for the first time by Moroccan women of the first generation to immigrate to Israel. Israel | Hebrew, Moroccan and French w/ Hebrew and English subtitles | 2009 | 77 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere | Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Chetrit.

QUEEN KHANTARISHA, directed by Israela Shaer-Meoded, an award winning documentary follows two Yemenite writers – one is a songwriter and lyricist of love; the other is a Jerusalem-born, religious poet and writer, who touches on demons, madness, rape, and rebellion and has garnered her community’s denunciation. The film explores the personal costs of straddling the ambitions of their creative expression within their conservative communities. Israel | Hebrew w/English subtitles | 2009 | 53 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere | Post-screening discussion – tbd.

CHILDREN OF THE BIBLE, directed by Nitza Gonen. The rapper an informal educator, Jeremy “Cool” Habash, exposes us to the complex situations facing Ethiopian-Israeli youth. Jeremy works towards changing the humiliated and depressed image of the Ethiopian community in Israel, both in its own eyes and in the eyes of Israeli society, by bringing members of the Ethiopian community closer to their tradition – the songs, the meaning of the Ethiopian names, stories about the lives of the Ethiopian community and about the journey that has taken on mythical proportions. Israel | Hebrew and Amharic w/English subtitles | 2009 | 53 min. | NYSJFF10 New York Premiere.


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