Thursday, June 05, 2014

' Dove Flyer 'may be screened in Iraq

 Rashel (played by Yasmin Ayoun) attempts to get her husband Heskel released from jail

If Nissim Dayan's film" Farewell Baghdad" - also know as  "The Dove Flyer" after the book by Eli Amir on which it is based - is screened in Iraq, it will be the first time that Arab audiences are exposed to a portrayal of harassed Jews at variance with the 'peaceful coexistence' narrative they are more familiar with.

Y-Net News reports:

After drawing some 150,000 viewers to Israel's cinemas, the film's producers are attempting to transfer a copy of the film to Iraq for a special, secret screening at one of Baghdad's main cinemas. The producers hope to find an insurance company which will provide protection for the person who will physically transfer the copy to Iraq, as it is impossible to send it by mail. The initiative to screen the movie in Baghdad belongs to a leading official in Iraq's film industry, who asked to remain anonymous. The Iraqi source secretly contacted an acquaintance and colleague in the Israeli film industry and asked him to check with the distributors in Israel whether they would be willing to give him a copy of the film.

The film's distributors, brothers Moshe and Leon Edery, were moved by the courageous appeal and are making efforts to transfer the copy through a third country. If they are successful, "Farewell Baghdad" will be screened in the Iraqi capital this month.

"It will be a highly important historic moment," says Moshe Edery. "I will be very glad to see an Israel film finally being screened in Iraq."

"Farewell Baghdad" tells the story of the Jewish community in the Iraqi capital on the eve of the State of Israel's establishment, and the way Jewish families and heads of the Jewish underground dealt with the authorities' hostility.

The film is filled with nostalgic memories from the life of Jews in Baghdad, including a reenactment of the customs, clothing, food, and mainly the Iraqi language in the Jewish dialect, which was common in every home."

Read article in full


Eyal Sagui Bisawe echoes the nostalgia theme - Jewish nostalgia and Arab nostalgia. He sees the film as the latest in a series of 'nostalgic films' made by  non-Jewish film-makers about Jews:

""Farewell Baghdad” is based on Eli Amar’s novel, “Mafriah Hayonim” (“The Dove Flyer”). Depicting the final days of Iraq’s Jewish community in Iraq, the movie can be interpreted as having been created in a contemporary Arab cultural context. This is because the nostalgic yearning of many Jews from Arab lands for their countries of origin — a yearning that is often mocked and dismissed — has significance in that it is often shared not only by Arab-Jewish people but also by the same “genuine” Arabs who stayed in those countries."

My comment: Nostalgia? Not really.

 "Farewell Baghdad' differs from other recent portrayals of Jews in Arab countries because it actually shows Jews being mistreated by Arabs. Jews are jailed whether as Communists or Zionists; Jews are executed while the crowd jeers.The film tells the story of how Rashel attempts to get her husband Heskel released from jail by securing the services of a handsome Muslim lawyer.

Apart from a brief foray into a Baghdad nightclub where the characters are seduced by the voice and looks of the Jewish singer Salima Murad (played by Mira Awad), the film evokes nostalgia in only one respect: Nissim Dayan's decision to follow Ahuva Keren's suggestion and have the characters speak Judeo-Arabic. One could not fail to smile at phrases never before uttered on the cinema screen, and an Iraqi-Jewish audience could not fail but be delighted at the use of such colourful Judeo-Arabic expressions as 'two bottoms in the same underpants', or 'enough already'. But not all the characters - especially the Israeli-Arab actors - spoke intelligibly and one Iraqi Jewess confessed to reading the English subtitles in order to to understand what they were saying.

The film disappointed on two counts: unlike the book by Eli Amir, there was no background to the plot, no flashback to the 1941 Farhud to explain why many young Jews were desperate to stockpile weapons and throw in their lot with Zionism or Communism. Moreover,  the setting felt like Jerusalem or Akko (it was). Where were the sun-baked bricks of Baghdad, or the views over the river Tigris?  (of course an Israeli film crew shooting on location was an impossibility, but Dayan could have supplied stock shots to create the atmosphere). There were other inaccurate details: a couple would never have been seen kissing in the alleys of Baghdad.

 I have heard other criticisms: that the film did not do justice to the 'way we lived.' A critic with memories of the Good Life in a comfortable home with servants would have been shocked by the harsh depiction of Jews harassed and hounded in the film.

Emil Murad in the Jerusalem Post  takes exception to the fact that Iraqi Jews were not portrayed as civilised Europeans, pillars of the British colonial administration.

"In the film Farewell to Baghdad by Eli Amir, for example, we see Jewish males wearing robes, skullcaps on their heads like those worn by Arabs, barefoot or with slippers or cheap sandals. In short, we see primitive people," he complains. "Is this the true picture? The question remains to be answered by those who rub shoulders today with Iraqis. Let them judge."

In truth, however, the Europeanized Jewish upper and middle classes still comprised a minority of the Jewish community. You only have to read Nissim Rejwan's biography or Salim Fattal's 'In the alleys of Baghdad' to understand that, notwithstanding the political pressures of the late 1940s, life for the vast majority of Iraqi Jews was a hard grind and a daily struggle.

Dayan's Baghdad epic: end of a community


Anonymous said...

Personnaly I have overcome my despair for leaving behind all my dreams!
We should shut that door and turn to the future.
Believe you me, we are better off in Europe than back there when we had to look behind us for fear of being attacked

Sylvia said...

Israeli Arabs still look down on their former dhimmis in Israel with the utmost contempt. I’ve often noticed –and noted - this.
It is particularly evident in an article in Haaretz by Salman Masalha titled “Israeli apartheid exposed at the airport” where he expresses clear disgust for the skin color of a “Mizrahi” security officer.
Ophir was a young, darkish security man, perhaps a descendant of converts from the Arabian Peninsula, perhaps from the Atlas Mountains. But one thing was clear, his black color looked very shabby, tattered and stained with evil.
Antisemitism is hazardous, but as we know, Mizrahophobia has never been a problem at Haaretz.

bataween said...

Sylvia, are you sure it is Mizrahophobia (love that term) or just prejudice related to skin colour? (We know how they feel about blacks).
I have noticed even among Mizrahim this predisposition to liking fair skin. When a baby is born, the first comment made is: he or she is 'fair-skinned'...

Sylvia said...

Mizrahophobia on the part of Haaretz. That paper literally wrote the book and has been at it since the fifties - Amos Elon, Seguev, Gideon Levy, Handelsaltz, etc etc.

Anti-black racism on the part of Israeli Arabs. You should see how Arab contractors treat their African workers: like slaves. I had first hand knowledge of it with the Arab subcontrators who built my shelter. They became furious when I gave water to their African workers in 35C heat. But when I gave them a cup of coffee, the fate of my shelter was sealed: construction dragged three years and I was left with problems to this day. Their rationale was that when African workers drink coffee they don't work.(!)

They packed those workers together in a rented room at night and didn't allow them to go anywhere. On week-ends they took them to their village and brought them back to town Sunday morning.
Needless to mention, they paid them peanuts.

PS: I meant for the first -not the second - post to be deleted since I had forgotten to mark the quote in italics.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

This anti-Mizrahi attitude in HaArets goes back at least to the series of sneering articles by Amos Elon circa 1951. And as we know Arabs can say almost anything that they like. So HaArets let him say what he wanted.
What Masalha says reflects the traditional Arab attitude of feeling superior to everybody else, particularly to Blacks (as well as Jews). [on this see Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in Islam, or some such title.]. This racial supremacy attitude goes as far back as the Arabian Nights Tales [Tales of 1001 Nights], where several of the villains are black.

Sylvia said...

And of course, as I said in the first, they still look the same way at their former dhimmi.
There is absolutely nothing in that story that we, Israelis Jews, don't experience at the airport, it's the same questions and the same clarifications. What got to him is that a former dhimmi is asking those questions. And this is unbearable.

Sylvia said...

More on this on tweeter:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

a good example illustrating Sylvia's point is found in the humorous wisecrack by French Prez Hollande about 5 1/2 months ago.

Sylvia said...

Good point. But Hollande's joke is even funnier to those few people at the Crif who know Spanish.
In Spanish, the -ll- is pronounced like a -i- and when pronounced correctly Emmanuel Valls' name sounds like Emmanuel Weiss. So no wonder Hollande said he was glad Valls got out safe and sound from Algeria.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

off topic//
new book about CIA involvement in Middle East since 1945. Some top people of the US upper crust joined CIA and brought their affection for the Arabs and hatred for Jews with them.
reviewed here: