Monday, February 25, 2013
'Jews of Egypt' film to be released in Egypt
Amir Ramses, director of the film 'Jews of Egypt'
The film 'Jews of Egypt' is about to be released - in Egypt. I would guess that the Muslim Brotherhood will be there outside the cinemas, demonstrating against 'normalisation' with Israel - or in the worse case scenario, attempting to lynch its director, Amir Ramses. For as Sarah Alcamel wrily remarks in this interview in Ahram Online with Ramses, it is hard to believe that Muslims lived in peace with fellow Muslims in Egypt's recent history, let alone with Christians and Jews.
On a quest to discover how Egyptian Jews went from partners to enemies within the span of a few decades, Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramses spent three years researching and shooting a documentary that presents a valuable insight into the nostalgia that haunts the exiled Jewish community. In an interview with Ahram Online, Ramses shares his motivations for tackling this controversial part of history in his latest film. The filmmaker explains that it all began with an overbearing question – a reflection – over the ingredients that comprise the Egyptian identity. "Like any Egyptian living here within the past ten years, I have been consumed with the quest for defining Egyptian identity," says Ramses.
In light of the current deluge of socio-political conflict and intolerance, it is hard to believe that Muslims lived in peace with fellow Muslims in Egypt’s recent history, let alone with Christians and Jews. Ramses was compelled to make his film to understand the transforming fabric of Egyptian society, and was driven by the question: 'In the eyes of Egyptians, how did the Jews of Egypt go from compatriots to enemies?'
Scheduled to be screened in movie theatres across Cairo in the first week of March, the documentary zooms in on the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century, and the key events that shaped their lives: the birth of the state of Israel in 1948; Egypt's 1952 Revolution, which ended the British occupation; and the tripartite attack of 1956, which forced them into exile.
The multi-layered documentary reminds audiences of the influence of Egyptian Jews in various sectors during the first half of the twentieth century, including the art scene – in which Jews such as Laila Mourad, Mounir Mourad and Togo Mizrahi thrived – and the business industry, in which Joseph Cicurel owned a series of major department stores.
Both a historical and personal account, the film weaves testimonials by figures such as Mohamed Abu El-Ghar, author of 'Jews of Egypt: From Prosperity to Diaspora'; sociologist Essam Fawzi; and a Muslim Brotherhood member who participated in the 1947 attack on Jewish shops; together with nostalgic accounts by exiled men and women, mostly residing in Paris.
Along with presenting an account of the lives of politically engaged communists who participated in founding liberal, anti-imperialist movements in Egypt – including a snapshot of famed left-wing political activist and co-founder of the Democratic Movement for National Liberation Henry Curiel (a character who deeply intrigues Ramses) – the film also poignantly presents the candid, heartrending stories of Elie, Andre, Gerard and Isabelle, who were yanked out of their beloved Egypt.
Read article in full
Update: Khaiber, a Qatari film is being made about Jews defeated by Muhammed (Jerusalem Post)
Jews of Egypt film causes uproar