You might recall, about a year ago, 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 film 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 streets.”
The documentary film captures the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century, through the present, in 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.
Director Ramses says he made the film because he grew tired of hearing modern-day Egyptians pejoratively associate the word “Jewish” with “Israeli” and “Zionist.” 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.
Now more of us, outside of Egypt, will have access to the documentary because ArtMattan Films, after acquiring Ramses’ award-winning feature documentary from the 21st Annual New York African Diaspora International Film Festival last December, is releasing the film theatrically at Quad Cinemas, in New York City, starting Today, March 28, 2014.
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.”
News of an NYC theatrical run is great for New Yorkers; For those not in New York City who’d like to book Jews of Egypt, contact ArtMattan Films at info@AfricanFilm.com, or call (212) 864-1760.
Expect an S&A review of the film eventually, once I get around to actually watching it!
Check out the trailer for Jews Of Egypt below: