Film: Moroccan film on Jewish Berbers sparks debate

Tinghir-Jerusalem, the echo of Mellah presented in Rome

09 November, 09:12

(ANSAmed) - ROME, NOVEMBER 9 - If a history professor decided to become a self-taught director, few would bet on his debut film becoming an international success, but this is exactly what happened to French-Moroccan director Kamal Hachkar.

His documentary 'Tinghir-Jerusalem, the Echoes of Mellah' tells the history of the Jewish Berbers of Tinghir, a small Moroccan mountain town. After 2000 years of peaceful cohabitation between Muslims and Jews, the latter left in droves during the 1950s and 1960s to resettle in Israel, where they were promised jobs, housing and a better life.

"However life in the fledgling Jewish state was very hard, and not only that, Berber Jews were seen as savages when compared to central and eastern European Jews," Hachkar told ANSAmed. He traveled all over Israel in search of the Tinghir Jews, and his academic, non-ideological approach has earned him criticism in his native Morocco, where he is accused of trying to normalize relations with Israel. "The Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with my film," is his reply. "If the Tinghir Jews had moved to Papuasia, that's where I would have gone. Some of these attacks are coming from pan-Arab and Islamist ideologues, who I'm pretty sure haven't even seen my work, and who've never lifted a finger for the Palestinians." Israel on the other hand welcomed the film, which won Best Documentary at the Ashkelon Festival. It also got excellent reviews in San Francisco and Brussels, and has been screened by all the French cultural institutes in Morocco. "I managed to reach Moroccan public opinion, especially the least sophisticated people, those most vulnerable to populist and obscurantist discourse. And that is what makes me the proudest," Hashkar confided. (ANSAmed).

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