Kathy Wazana / Feature Documentary / Canada, USA, Morocco / 2013 / 73min / Language: French, English, Hebrew, Arabic / Subtitles: English
Kathy Wazana’s controversial, ground-breaking documentary is the story of a people whose identity as Arab Jews challenges the very notion of enemy. The Casablanca-born filmmaker set out to discover why hundreds of thousands of Jews left Morocco in the 1960s, believing their Arab homeland had become enemy territory. What she found was a country still grieving the loss of its Jewish population. Her investigation reveals the calculations and political manoeuvres that led to the mass migration of Jews from their ancestral homelands, an exodus inextricably linked to the Partition of Palestine, the creation of the “state of israel” and the dispossession and exile of the Palestinian people. As witnesses in the Berber villages of southern Morocco recall efforts by Muslim neighbours to prevent their Jewish compatriots from leaving, the commonly held belief that Jews were expelled or forced to leave Morocco takes on a new meaning. Along the way, other myths are shattered. Told through the director’s personal lens and the journey of second-generation Moroccan israeli Shira Ohayon, the doc is stunningly shot as a musical road movie through the dramatic landscapes of the Atlas Mountains, intercut with Sami Shalom Chetrit’s poetry dedicated to Mahmoud Darwish. The film’s haunting score consists of original recordings of Andalusian and Sephardic music, performed in Arabic, Hebrew and Ladino, and featuring Françoise Atlan, Salim Halali, Rabbi Haïm Louk, Abderrahim Abdelmoumen, Si Thami Harrak and the Soufi Orchestra of Tétouan.
About the filmmaker: Kathy Wazana is a Casablanca-born, Toronto-based writer, translator, editor, turned documentary filmmaker, whose current work focuses on Jewish-Arab-Muslim relations in Canada, Morocco and in The Holy Land. A proponent of international cooperation and learning, a peace activist and an advocate for equity and human rights, Kathy has worked in politics and the labour movement, in educational television, publishing and advertising, in government, public and media relations, and in international development, in France and in Canada. In 2002 she picked up a camera for the first time and spent two years observing and documenting the 2nd Intifada, leading a Canadian women’s fact-finding mission and co-authoring the report “Speaking Through Walls”. In recent years, Kathy has turned her attention to studying and understanding Jewish-Arab relations through the history of Jews in Morocco and her own identity as an Arab Jew. The rupture provoked by the partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of israel is the subject of Kathy’s award-winning first feature documentary They Were Promised the Sea / Pour une Nouvelle Séville, produced with the support of the Conseil des Arts du Canada and the Conseil des Arts de l’Ontario. Eight years in the making, They Were Promised the Sea / Pour une Nouvelle Séville had its World Broadcast Première on the CBC Doc Channel in April 2013 and was awarded the NFB-ONF ACIC Award for Best Independent Production (2014).