After some initial resistance, Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramses’ independently-produced feature documentary Jews of Egypt has now received approval from the Egyptian censorship authority, for a local theatrical release, the director said in a press statement.
The kerfuffle received some international attention a couple of weeks ago, when the head of the Egyptian censorship authority was said to have withheld permission for the documentary’s national release, which was initially scheduled for March 13, because “National Security was worried that its title could create tension in the street.” .
Director Ramsis’ Jews of Egypt says he made the film because he grew tired of hearing people in modern-day Egypt pejoratively associating the word “Jewish” with “Israeli” and “Zionist.”
The documentary film captures the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century through the present. The filmmaker says that it’s an attempt to understand how Egyptian society turned from a society full of tolerance and acceptance of one another, to one that that rejects others.
In essence, his intent is to show a more tolerant Egyptian, which several Egyptian Jews made important artistic and political contributions to.
The film contains interviews with researchers and Egyptian Jews themselves, against the backdrop of how increased Egyptian-Israeli tensions led parts of Egyptian society to view Egyptian Jews as “enemies of the nation.”
The film’s producer Haytham el-Khamissy condemned state security for suppressing history, critical thinking and creativity with their initial action to prevent the film from screening locally.
Egyptian journalist Naira Antoun has called the film a “history lesson,” while Egyptian film critic Joseph Fahim called it “the most accomplished, most important Egyptian non-fiction film of the past five years.“
The film’s director says it will now open in Cairo and Alexandria cinemas on March 27, distributed by the major Egyptian distributor Al Arabia.
Amir Ramses issued a statement (in arabic) on behalf of himself and the crew of the film, you can read it here.
A press conference was held on Thursday March 21, you can watch it here.
A history lesson indeed… Check out the trailer for Jews Of Egypt below: