Sunday, March 30, 2008

Moroccan film focuses on mass Jewish exodus

The director Hassan Benjelloun had wanted to call his film My brother the Jew, but the Moroccan authorities would not allow him to. At least they were open-minded enough to allow Benjalloun to make the film - now titled Ou vas-tu Moshe? - currently showing at a Moroccan festival in Toronto. The film is proof that there are Moroccan Muslims for whom the mass exodus of the Jews in the 1960s still rankles. Report in the Globe and Mail:

"When Moroccan filmmaker Hassan Benjelloun was a boy, he went out in the street one day to discover that half his neighbours had disappeared. Their doors were all shuttered. "I ran to my mother and asked, 'Why are the doors shut?' " he recalled in a recent interview, in French, from Casablanca. "She told me, 'They have all gone to Palestine.' It was the first time I had ever heard of Palestine."

"The Jewish exodus from Morocco in the 1960s, which decimated an ancient community, and separated friends, neighbours and business partners, has rankled Benjelloun ever since. As Morocco became increasingly liberalized in the 1990s, the filmmaker worked his way through the sore spots of his country's recent history, making feature films about the brutal political repression of the 1970s and the subjugation of women.

"Inevitably, he turned to the subject of the exodus. The result, surprisingly, is a bittersweet comedy entitled Où vas-tu Moshé? (Where Are You Going, Moshe?), a Moroccan-Canadian co-production. It is one of four Moroccan films in the French-language festival CinéFranco now under way in Toronto, and it will also enjoy a wider release in late April.

"The film suggests that both the government of Morocco, independent since 1956, and the young state of Israel were complicit in getting all but a few thousand of Morocco's 260,000 Jews to immigrate clandestinely in the early 1960s. But its story focuses on the little people buffeted by forces larger than themselves: If all the Jews of Bejjad leave town, and the local council succeeds in its program of Islamification, poor Mustapha will lose his bar licence. Luckily for him, the old watchmaker and musician Shlomo can't make up his mind to go, and he soon finds himself courted by the devout and the drinkers alike.

"The film portrays Moroccan Jews and Muslims living side by side, all speaking the mix of Arabic and French that is characteristic of North Africa. In one scene that surely owes much to Benjelloun's childhood memories, a young boy whose family is sneaking away at night runs back upstairs, bursts into the neighbouring apartment, and throws himself into the arms of the little Muslim friend from whom he cannot bear to be parted. "I wanted to remove the confusion of Jew and Zionist," says the filmmaker. "Today, if you say Jewish [in the Arab world], you mean Zionist. ... They were our friends and our neighbours."

Read article in full

Goodbye mothers film

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the film and was entertained until the last credits were running up the screen. I was highly disturbed by the captions, saying: in 2006 Israel invaded Lebanon and killed hundreds, had the Arab nations kept their children, this would have been avoided."
The director was in fact present and right away apologized that this was not to be in the Picture but was from an old copy mistakenly sent.
Makes me wonder, if perhaps that theme might not as well be the sublimminal message of the film. And was this message solely intended for Muslim Countries?
After pondering for quite some time. The momentary entertaining Movie, now makes me angry at it.

Jake. (Moroccan, escapee from 1967)

gideon said...

What you say is interesting - it reminds me of when Arabs say - I have nothing against Jews, just Zionists!

Anonymous said...

OH please -here we go again...if we all focus on little details that offends us, I think it's a huge problem.

focus on the overall picture, it's great story

Zak said...

I experienced the same thing as Hassan as a boy of 6 year of age, but mine was in Algeria in 1962. One day you wake up to play as usual than one notices, everything is boarded up and empty. That day was the saddest day in my life... not to have my friends to play with anymore. It took a lots of time for the reasons to sink in...afterwards I knew that many poeple wanted them dead. The anti-jewish nationalist dictum was: "La valise ou le cerceuil" which means the suitcase or the coffin".

Despite the misfortunes that jews experienced in Arab lands, I am so happy to see that the next generations made a state and a culture that they should be pround of...

bataween said...

A very moving comment, Zak - inshallah you may someday be allowed to visit your old playmates

Hanita Maskit said...

I was enjoying the movie until the credits. In the summer of 2006 I was racing to my bomb shelter every day while the Hizballah was trying to bomb Haifa. It is November 2011, and if the credits were a mistake in 2008, why are they still there ?

bataween said...

I agree that the credits inject a sour note at variance with the rest of the film:'The Jews are killing Arabs and many of those doing the killing are Moroccan'.