Home Culture Moroccan Blues at the 21st Sephardic Jewish Festival in New York

Moroccan Blues at the 21st Sephardic Jewish Festival in New York

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By Hajare El Khaldi

Rabat – The 21st edition of the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (NYSJFF) will take place this year at the Center of Jewish History in New York from March 5-15.

 The NYSJFF explores the diverse experiences of Sephardic Jewish people, including those Spanish, Portuguese, North African and Middle Eastern descent. The festival includes premiere film screenings and evocative documentaries.The ten-day long festival also features Q&A sessions with filmmakers, special honorees, and guests.

 On its opening night, the festival will celebrate Sephardic excellence in the arts by presenting winners with the Pomegranate Award, which was previously awarded to dignitaries such as Senior Counselor to the King of Morocco Mohammed VI, André Azoulay, Moroccan-Israeli poet Erez Bitton, French-Algerian renowned singer Enrico Macias, and the Kuwaiti artist and human rights activists Ema Shah.

The festival highlights the importance of film as an art form and demonstrates its ability to transmit strong ideas to people across time and space. David Serero, the Moroccan-Jewish renowned opera singer and actor, as well as the producer of NYSJFF, told Morocco World News that film brings people together on many levels: during the making process, as an audience, and as a subject.

Each night, the American Sephardic Federation will introduce a themed program honoring one of the diverse Sephardic Jewish communities, according to the statement.

 This edition’s themes include, The Syrian Jewish Community: Our Journey Through History, Two Zions: The Living Legacy of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Brave Miss World, Journey from Tunisia, and Remember Baghdad.

 “From ‘Stars,’ Konrad Wolf’s classic, cinematic gem on the Greek Holocaust experience, to Cecilia Peck’s ‘Brave Miss World’ about a Moroccan-Israeli beauty contestant’s struggle against sexual violence, these are universal stories that speak to the issues of our time (discrimination, persecution, immigration, resistance) and all time,” said Sara Nodjoumi, NYSJFF’s Artistic Director in the festival press release.

Various communities, regardless of religion, have always welcomed such initiatives. According to Serero, Moroccans always celebrate their heritage wherever found, “Every Moroccan is an artist!” he added, “Morocco has kept a strong relationship with all its diaspora throughout the world and is always happy to celebrate their own culture. We owe this to our Kings Hassan II and Mohammed VI, who have made each Moroccan proud of their past, present, and future.”

 Moroccan celebrations will color this year’s opening night. The Annual Pomegranate Awards Ceremony will feature a special performance of Sebt Gnawa with the presence of Grammy-nominated Innov Gnawa and Sephardic Jazz trumpeter Itamar Borochov.

 Having Gnawa music, also called the Moroccan Blues, at the heart of this celebration is intended to shed light on the seldom-heard Jewish spirits in the Gnawa repertoire.

 The festival will also celebrate the healing music of black Moroccan communities that formerly constituted of soldiers and slaves with sub-Saharan origins.

Morocco does not only stand at the receiving end of such festivals. Serero praises the Marrakech film festival and considers one of the most important film festivals worldwide. He also believes that the NYSJFF would meet great success in the kingdom.

NYSJFF is an annual film festival, founded in 1990, under the sponsorship of the American Sephardi Federation.

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