SPOTLIGHT 2016 – Cousins
Jewish-Arab identities in postcolonial cultural discourse
During the past two decades, an increasing examination of Jewish-Arab identities can be observed in the Arab culture, especially in the genres of literature and film. A theme that, through the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has been captured by different state ideologies in the Arab World. It has been widely looked at and depicted through hegemonic Eurocentric perspectives in Europe. Both views commonly present the »Jewishness« and the »Arabness« as binary opponents. This also functions within dichotomous demarcation strategies such as »black« and »white« and »the other«. Cultural studies researcher Ella Shohat discusses this topic in her varied publications.
The film programme examines historical and contemporary feature and documentary films, which depict Jewish-Arab identities and reintegrate them as a historical component of Arab and Jewish culture and memory. The intensified dealing with religious and ethnical minorities in Arab societies during the past years is not just a nostalgic evocation of multicultural history. It is also closely related to postcolonial recoding strategies in the areas of culture, politics and society, a struggle about the depiction and memory of collective identities and historic events. The main focus of the SPOTLIGHT programme is to subject blind spots of the official historical narrative to a historical revision through the usage of artistic resources.
One of the early films of this series, the autobiographical feature film Alexandria…. Why? by Youssef Chahine, is a kaleidoscopic examination of the diverse internal and external economic, political and social factors, which Egypt experienced in its battle for independence and which affected the population. Nadia Kamel’s personal documentary Salata Baladi builds on this historical heritage. In the comedy Un Eté à la Goulette, Ferid Boughedir casts a nostalgic glance at the past and celebrates the unburdened togetherness of Jews, Christians and Muslims in Tunisia, overshadowed by the approaching political events.
The Moroccan feature Where Are You Going, Moshe? and the documentary Forget Baghdad by the Iraqi-Swiss filmmaker Samir, examine the reasons behind the migration of the Moroccan and Iraqi Jewish communities. In Safinez Bousbias’ vibrant film El Gusto, the fatal connection between colonialism, the fight for independence and nationalism constitutes the historical background story for the 50-year-long separation of an ensemble from Algiers consisting of Muslim and Jewish Chaabi musicians. In the documentaries They Were Promised the Sea and Once I Entered a Garden, the two filmmakers Kathy Wazana and Avi Mograbi, each through his own critical perspective, embark on a historical journey into their Jewish-Arab identity. Wazana deals with the oppression of the Mizrahim, the Arab Jews who live in Israel, whilst Mograbi integrates the expulsion of a Palestinian friend in 1948 into the narrative of his story. The absurdity of the territorial, ethnical and ideological demarcations becomes clear in the compilation film The Gulf War… What Next? The protagonists experience the Iraqi attack on Kuwait, as well as the following invasion of Iraq, as a fundamental concussion of all ideological certainties. They are forced to a new engagement with identities and ideologies.
A panel discussion with cultural researcher Ella Shohat, filmmakers Kathy Wazana, Nadia Kamel and Hassan Benjelloun and film critic Jay Weissberg. The panel discussion will be moderated by Irit Neidhart, Middle East scholar and film distributor. of the presented films will give further insights into the theme. Iraqi author Ali Bader will present, in a bilingual reading, his novel The Tobacco Keeper (2008) — a story of a vibrant personality and a multi-ethnic Iraq.
Supported by Capital Cultural Fund.