Friday, November 17, 2006

Jews unwilling participants in Iranian documentary

An Iranian Muslim film-maker found it hard to get Jews to speak freely in his documentary 'Jews of Iran', Haaretz reports. (With thanks: Albert)

"The leaders of the Jewish community did not directly state they were not willing to cooperate, but I sensed their lack of enthusiasm. I tried to win their trust, to become friendly with them, but they were not eager to cooperate on my film," Farahani says in a telephone interview from his home in the Netherlands.

Farahani spent three months in 2002 with the main Jewish communities in Iran, and documented their story as much as possible. He visited community members in their homes and at work, attended their celebrations, and filmed at Jewish schools and kindergartens, Hebrew classes and synagogues.

The resulting film, "Jews of Iran," will be screened at the Jewish Eye - World Jewish Film Festival, which opened yesterday in Be'er Sheva. It provides a rare if limited look into these individuals' lives.

The Jews' fear of freely expressing themselves in front of the camera, and, incidentally, in front of others who may see the film, is apparent throughout the film. One scene shows an elderly Jewish woman lying in her hospital bed. She says she is alone, that her children live abroad and that there is no one to look after her. When the director asks her where they live, she answers that she believes they live in Israel, but then quickly adds: "God is my witness that I don't have their address." She later relates that they tried to take her with them when they left, "but then something happened." She refuses to elaborate and bursts into tears.

A connection to Israel is the biggest danger facing Jews in Iran, and this is especially obvious in scenes filmed in Shiraz, where several Jews were convicted in 2000 of spying for Israel. Farahani talks with their defense lawyer, who claims their confessions were the only evidence against them. The director then asks community members what they think about the trial. Even though he states in the film that the community widely believes the confessions were improperly extracted, none of the interviewees were willing to address this. They were willing to say they knew the detainees, but refrained from expressing an opinion on the trial.

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