You will recall that, earlier this year, after some initial resistance, Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramses’ independently-produced feature documentary Jews of Egypt received approval from the Egyptian censorship authority, for a local theatrical release.
The news received some international attention weeks before, when the head of the Egyptian censorship authority was said to have withheld permission for the documentary’s national release, 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.
Now the rest of the world will have access to the film because ArtMattan Films acquired Ramses’ award-winning feature documentary from the 21st Annual New York African Diaspora International Film Festival (which is currently running until December 15).
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 opened in Cairo and Alexandria cinemas on March 27, distributed by the major Egyptian distributor Al Arabia.
No word yet on when ArtMattan will begin releasing the film, but if you’d like to book Jews of Egypt, you’re asked to contact ArtMattan Films at info@AfricanFilm.com or call (212) 864-1760.
Check out the trailer for Jews Of Egypt below: