Archive for April, 2011

Why is Africa a destination for Western missionaries? Do they really come to share the Gospel? What is Africa for them, an ‘empty’ land full of ‘savage’ people living in jungles and very far from Civilization?

Ok. Lets see!

augustine (Africa)







(An article coming soon)


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Onder één dak : de Joden van Marokko (lit. Under one roof: the Jews of Morocco) is a Dutch documentary directed by Abdelillah Ouali. It sheds light on the history of Jews in Morocco highlighting the coexistence between the Jews and the Muslims in one land, Morocco. The documentary is divided into two episodes each of which is about 28 min.

Technically, the documentary is professionally well-done. It is a Dutch TV production. It provides Dutch subtitles and sometimes Arabic ones. Obviously it targets both a Moroccan and a Dutch audience. Dila Jansen is the commentator. Her voiceover does not eclipse the interviewees’. She would comment on the historical events such as the independence of Morocco. The documentary uses some historical archive videos and photo footages, such as the speech of Mohamed V in the independence era, and the jobs that used to be occupied exclusively by Jews. Music is highly influential in the documentary and also backs up its purpose. The documentary starts with a song about belonging to Morocco sung by a Moroccan Jew, subtitled in Dutch. Among the techniques used in the documentary are interviews on which I will focus on this article.

The use of interviews is a vital component of a documentary film; it brings the topic of documentary to life. Joden van Marokko is about a community, a people, so it is very important to let this people represent and express themselves, rather than just having a narrator explaining a certain aspect of an event or commenting on some static pictures. The pictures and the narrator would certainly provide useful information, but the audience is very likely to be interested in the personal telling of their experience.  It is the interview that supports the argument of the documentary. In our case the documentary is based mainly on interviews; it interviews varied people, including politicians, historians, ordinary people, workers, rabbis and also interviewing professionals for their expert advice. They all serve to elaborate on the coexistence between the Jewish community and Muslims in Morocco. Documentary film uses people to fulfill  a particular purpose, usually who are knowledgeable about the topic, which is very well-done in Joden van Marokko.  Interviews are the key to have people’s opinions on a particular topic and also to convince the viewers and have them engaged. The audience loves to connect with the person who is relating a personal experience, or to identify with those who share the same experience, since this documentary targets Moroccan Jews as well.

Making real-life videos by Matthew Williams is a very useful book that I recommend to produce good documentary films. He suggests that “What makes interviews a unique aspect of a documentary is that a good interview, which allows the interview subject to go into great detail about a personal experience, can also be used as narration. In the editing room, a filmmaker can cut away to other visual references while the person being interviewed is still talking. In that way, interviews are quite versatile because they can be used for just audio or both audio and video.” (Matthew Williams, Making real-life videos, p, 64). This can be illustrated when, for instance, the historian Mohamed Kenbib talks about the freedom Jews have in Morocco as Dhimmis.

The interviews used in this documentary are rather balanced, in the sense that they give room to both Jews and Muslims to talk about their relationship in Morocco, the Muslim workers relationship with the Jewish boss. They are also given the chance to put across their version of events.

Accordingly, good interviewing is the key to a good documentary film. So one should be well-skilled in how to conduct an interview to ensure the success of his or her documentary film. Basically, interviews are a great way to get information from a direct source talking about their opinions, experience, and information from a knowledgeable individual.

There is an art to interviewing people, as stated by Matthew Williams, who also suggests a number of useful tips for creating a successful interview (on pp: 65- 66):

  1. Prepare for the interview with whatever background research is possible. Know the field of the interview.
  2. Prepare question that cannot be answered with a yes or a no answer. Ask good open-ended questions.
  3. Try your questions on a friend to see how they work and what kinds of responses you get.
  4. Warm up your subjects with casual conversation while the shoot is being prepared or before you being the questioning.
  5. Before beginning the interview, remind your subject to include your question in his response. That way, you don’t have to include yourself asking the question when editing the documentary (…)
  6. Start your interview with a question that the subject will enjoy.
  7. Pay attention. Carefully listen to the answers and try to react and perhaps follow up. Nothing is stiffer than following a prepared list of questions with no interaction.
  8. Don’t interrupt the person you are interviewing.
  9. Set the tone for the interview with your questions, your demeanor, how you address the subject, etc. (…)
  10. Remember your audience. What do they want to know from your subject, and how might they ask a question or respond to an answer?
  11. Wherever possible, ask simple, not compound, questions. (…)
  12. If your question is unclear to the subject, rephrase it and ask it again.
  13. Always save the subject if he is in trouble. It will do no good to watch the subject flounder and drown on camera.
  14. Where it is appropriate, prepare the subject by reviewing the major points and topics of the interview to come. Do not give them the specific questions, however, as you want your interview to be spontaneous and fresh.

He adds that the “goal of the interview is to get the subject to speak with a lot of details. You may want to tell this to your subject before the interview. Ask him to answer with complete sentences… It is also important for the interviewer to be able to think on her toes. A good interview is not all planned out. If you pay close attention to what the subject is saying, you may spontaneously think of a good follow-up question that the subject did not mention.” (66)

Now, asking the right question is only half the battle when creating a successful interview. The other half is technical: How are you going to film this event? There are four elements to strongly consider when filming an interview:

    • Location
    • Camera
    • Lighting
    • Sound

For the location, one should place the subjects in a setting that tells the audience something about the person. The background should also be well-taken care of, the color and all what is included within the frame. It is also important to diverse the background so that the series of interviews won’t look monotonous and visually boring.

The camera and the interviewers position is also important in filming an interview. Usually the interviewer position him/herself next to the camera. It is also highly recommended to avoid the subject of an interview from looking directly into the camera. It can make the subject feel uncomfortable. It can also make the documentary look like a news program. The subject should not look away from the camera either. This kind of positioning can cause the audience to lose a connection with the subject and therefore to disengage.

The lighting is another important technical aspect which should not be overlooked while filming an interview. If there are any windows in the room, the interviewee should be positioned facing the window. Never film a person sitting directly in front of a window, especially during daylight. This will make the person look too dark and the audience will not be able to see them. It is important for the audience to see the subject’s eyes. It is also preferable to use a light source, or just a regular lamp and place it next to the interviewer.

It is also essential to consider the sound in the location of filming, background noise should be avoided.

Here is the link to the full documentary:

De Joden van Marokko by Abdelillah Ouali.


Works Consulted

Rosenthal, Alan. Writing, directing, and producing documentary films and videos. USA: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 1990.

Thomas, Jenny. Survival Guide for Ward Managers, Sisters and Charge Nurses. USA: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 2006.

Williams, Matthew. Making real-life videos: great projects for the classroom and the home. New York: Allworth Press, 2006.

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On April 6th, 2011, Charles Windsor, the Prince of Wales, visited Fez, after meeting the day before with the king Mohamed VI and enjoying the historical monuments of Rabat. His visit to Fez was announced in the synagogue, where we were invited, because he was having a special visit to Ben Danan Synagogue, which is a 17th century synagogue.

Ben Danan synagogue was full of mostly Fessi Jews: Rabbis, ladies, gentlemen, young, old. All waiting for the coming of the Prince. Everyone looked elegant. I was sitting next to the cousin of the Prince. Mr. J. L. Norton, Esq. Does this name sound familiar? Well, yes. He is my friend Jess, who has had five grandfathers on the English throne. Since Jess looked very English and very elegant, everyone was asking me who he is. I kept answering, he is my friend, but soon preferred to answer a Professor of English, since they were willing to know more.

The synagogue was full of VIPs, including: Simon Levy, the director of the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, Armand Guigui, the president of the Jewish community of Fez, Sefrou and Oujda,  Ministers, national and international media, and later the Prince with his bodyguards. After waiting for a long time, the Prince finally comes. Everyone rose and directed their cameras to him. He was welcomed by Mr. Levy and Mr. Guigui. He received different gifts from the Jewish community: a book from Mr. Levy, a Shufar, and many others. He was introduced to some people, such as Rabbi Abraham Sabbagh, the Rabbi of Fez, Mr. Edmond Gabbay, the director of the Jewish museum of Fez, etc.

Then, he was invited to sit down to listen to the prayers after having been given a French translation. The prayers were for blessings, a prayer for the king Mohamed VI and the Moroccan Kingdom, a prayer for the Queen Elizabeth and her kingdom and then a prayer for the Prince.

The Prince came and shook our hands, I said “Good Afternoon Your Royal Highness, I am Youness Abeddour, Welcome to Morocco.” He smiled and said that we all speak  good English, when Samantha declared that they are American students, he asked what are they learning, she said Arabic. And then he moved to Jess, and asked what is he doing in Morocco, Jess answered that he is a professor of English and added that he is a Planteganet and then the Prince replied “Aren’t we all!”

Soon after he left, and we were invited for lunch. We went to Maimonid Center where we had our lunch, and marked a special day in our lives.



The Youtube link:

On the Moroccan News

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