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The NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival program

The NY International Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, the first festival dedicated to showcasing international films with distinctly Sephardic themes, celebrates 10 years of cinematic explorations of Sephardic Jewry presented in a weeklong series of screenings, compelling panel discussions, and events. The festival, co-sponsored by the Yeshiva University Museum and the Manhattan JCC will take place from February 2 to 8, 2006 with screenings at the Center for Jewish History and one screening at the Manhattan JCC. Opening night screening and reception will feature the highly anticipated and award-winning film Live and Become.

Since its debut at Lincoln Center a decade ago, the festival has attracted an audience of over 20,000 viewers and has become the largest forum of its kind. "Through cinematic exploration, our aim is to further elevate the understanding of the rich history and culture of Sephardic Jewry, the Jews from Spain who made their way to many diverse countries of the world including Turkey, Greece, Italy, the countries of North Africa, the Middle East including Israel and parts of Europe, to provide a unique platform for filmmakers and scholars, and to present inspired entertainment for diverse audiences," says ASF Director Esme Berg.

The festival, curated by Alla Verlotsky of Seagull Films, is committed to exhibiting carefully assembled, frequently surprising, and invariably thought-provoking international feature films and documentaries that examine the past and explore contemporary Sephardic identity.

The 2006 slate of films include critically acclaimed and award-winning New York and World premieres as well as classic feature films and documentaries presented by filmmakers from differing global perspectives. “While continuing to reflect the history and traditions of Sephardim, this year’s films also examine modern day societies, and the development of a new identity for Sephardic Jewry,” Verlotsky explains. This year’s timely themes include a special focus on the courage and valor of Sephardic women and their efforts to reshape their role in today’s society,


Opening Night Thursday February 2nd at 7 PM and Sunday February 5 th at 7:30 PM
Live and Become (Va, Vis et Deviens); Radu Mihaileanu / France-Israel / 2004 / 143 minutes / Hebrew, French, and Amharic with English subtitles
Audience Award winner of the Berlin Film Festival 2005 will open the festival on February 2nd. From director Radu Mihaileanu comes a poignant story of an Ethiopian boy airlifted from a Sudanese refugee camp during 1984’s Operation Moses. Adopted by a Moroccan family in Israel, the film follows Schlomo’s conflicted journey into adulthood as he struggles with survival, a secret identity, and love.

**In Person: Q&A with Actor Sirak Sabahat

Saturday February 4th 6:30 PM
Elias Canetti ; Thomas Honickel / Germany / 2005 / 59 minutes / German with English subtitles
A "Spanish poet of German language," Elias Canetti grew up a polyglot, living at different periods of his life in Bulgaria, England and Vienna. He was born into an elite Sephardic family who when expelled from Spain in 1492, settled in the Ottoman Empire. His masterpieces “Auto-da-Fé” and “Crowds and Power,” are considered among the most original works of the 20th Century. The film will be followed by a talk with Gloria Ascher, Tufts University on Canetti’s Sephardic heritage.

**Post-screening Discussion: The film will be followed by a talk with Gloria Ascher, Tufts University on Canetti’s Sephardic heritage.

Saturday February 4th 9:00 PM and Wednesday February 8th 6:00 PM
Secret Passage; Ademir Kenovic / UK-Luxembourg / 2004 / 94mins./ English
Directed by Ademir Kenovic and starring John Turturro, the film is a period piece filled with intrigue and romance. Set in 16th century Venice, Isabel and Clara are growing up in a time of terror. It is 1492, and Spain has decreed that all Jews must either convert to Catholicism, go into exile or face trial and execution. Although forcibly baptized, the sisters are chased through Christendom until they arrive in Venice. It is in this great maritime empire, where opulence rhymes with tolerance, that Isabel organizes secret passages to the Ottoman Empire for refugees fleeing the Inquisition while Clara falls in love with a Venetian nobleman.

Sunday February 5th 12:00 Noon and Tuesday February 7th at 4:00 PM
Salaam Shalom; Vanessa C. Laufer / Canada / 1999 / 50 minutes / English
A colorful film about the Jews of India that brings to life a remarkable history dating back two millennia. A microscopic minority living within a vast, varied nation, Jews who have been in India for thousands of years and more recent immigrants from Iraq and Spain, co-existed in an environment of tolerance and pluralism. With the declaration of Indian independence in 1947 and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, many of the Jews of India decided to “leave their home to find their home: their religious loyalty stronger than their national loyalty to India.”

** Sunday screening will be followed by a Q & A with Nissim B. Ruben Program Officer - International Affairs & Indian-Israel-US Relations, The American Jewish Committee.

Sunday February 5th 2:30 PM (DOUBLE FEATURE)
A Matter of Time, Common Fate; NY Premiere by Serge Ankri and Marco Carmel / Israel / 2005 / 52 minutes / Hebrew with English subtitles
The little-known story of the Jewish Communities of North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) during WW II, revealing how, had fate not intervened, it was only “a matter of time” until they would share the fate of their co-religionists in Europe. While often considered a Jewish community “apart,” the film reveals through archival and contemporary footage and stills, and extensive interviews with surviving witnesses and historians, that these Jews too were very much in the thoughts of Nazi planners.

Sunday, February 5th 3:30PM
The Last Greeks on Broom Street; NY Premiere by Ed Askinazi / USA / 2004 / 27minutes / English
A personal exploration of filmmaker Ed Askinazi’s heritage doubles as a fascinating glimpse into the little known community of Greek Jews, known as Romaniotes, with 2,000 years of history, their own culture, language, food, liturgical rites and customs. Ethnic communities and the cultures that help define our identities are vanishing throughout America. The Last Greeks on Broome Street explores one such culture, New York City’s Greek Jews – a unique community that thrived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side only a century ago but now borders on extinction.

**Q&A with Director Ed Askinazi

Sunday February 5th 5:00 PM and Tuesday February 7th 6:30 PM
Forgotten Refugees; NY Premiere / Michael Grynszpan / USA / 2005 / 49 minutes / English
A documentary that traces the decline and disappearance of once vibrant Middle Eastern Jewish communities that had existed for over 2,500 years. Compelling interviews from modern day Jews from Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, who quietly carry the memory, give insight into a destroyed civilization.

**Post-screening discussion with Charles Jacobs and Gina Waldman

Monday February 6th 6:30 PM
Love Iranian American Style; Tanaz Eshaghian / USA / 2005 / 62 minutes / English and Farsi with English subtitles
The film first premiered at the festival in 2001 as a short entitled “The Persian Girl.”
Sexual purity, money, and a mother’s worries come together in Tanaz Eshaghian’s humorous documentary, offering a rare glimpse into the inner circles of the tightly knit Persian community in the United States. The film follows Tanaz, the narrator, a hip New Yorker whose Iranian family attempts to marry her off now that she’s reached the ancient age of 25. As they arrange dates with suitors, lament her liberal American upbringing, and agitate about the passing of youth, Tanaz explores whether she can find love in her own way.

**Q & A with the director Tanaz Eshaghian
Monday February 6th 9:00 PM
The Garden of Finzi Contini; Vittorio De Sica / Italy-West Germany / 1970 / 94 minutes / Italian with English subtitles
Adapted from Giorgio Bassani's 1962 semi-autobiographical novel, the film chronicles the gradual disintegration of the Jewish community living in Italy at the beginning of World War II. As Fascist persecution of the Jews escalates from the onset of Benito Mussolini's anti-Semitic edicts in 1938 to the mass arrests and deportations in 1943, the wealthy Finzi-Contini family open their lush gardens to the persecuted friends of their daughter, Micol, and their son, Alberto. It is through the eyes of one of these friends, a middle-class, Jewish-Italian student named Giorgio, that the story of unrequited love, unfolds.

Tuesday February 7th 8:30 PM and Wednesday February 8th 8:00 PM

Until Tomorrow Comes, NY Premiere by David Deri / Israel / 2004 / 65 minutes / Hebrew with English subtitles
Directed by David Deri, the film vividly depicts the realities of inter-generational conflicts in a dramatic and tender portrayal of a week-in-the-life of a beauty salon owner in the South of Israel facing the decline of her aging mother, the unraveling marital crisis of her daughter, and an unexpected courtship threatening her glorious solitude.

**Q & A with Director David Deri and actress Raymonde Abecassis.

THE AMERICAN SEPHADI FEDERATION with SEPHARDIC HOUSE is dedicated to promoting and preserving the spiritual, historical, cultural and social traditions of all Sephardic communities as an integral part of Jewish heritage. Founded in 1973, ASF affiliated with Sephardic House (established in 1978) to diversify and expand cultural activities and to advocate for Sephardic Communities around the world in order to foster strong lines of communication between them and the American Sephardic community. ASF with Sephardic House celebrates the uniqueness of the Sephardic culture through educational programs, archival preservation, its annual International Sephardic Film Festival, publications and exhibitions.

Since it’s founding in 1973, YESHIVA UNIVERSITY MUSEUM’s changing exhibits have celebrated the culturally diverse intellectual and artistic achievements of 3,000 years of the Jewish experience. The museum provides a window into Jewish culture around the world and throughout history through its acclaimed multi-disciplinary exhibitions and award-winning publications.

Seagull Films is one of the leading North American programming / distribution company exclusively specialized in Jewish, Russian, formerly Soviet cinema.


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