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Mercredi 21 Novembre 2012,

Mimouna Club Fez a eu le plaisir d’organiser une table ronde au Maimonide (Centre de la communauté juive de Fès) où l’invité d’honneur était le réalisateur du film documentaire « Tinghir – Jérusalem : les échos du Mellah » Kamal Hachkar.

Kamal Hachkar

C’était une journée exceptionnelle, les amis de ce club culturel ont joui le débat avec ce jeune réalisateur autodidacte qui est professeur d’Histoire-Géographie dans un des lycées de Paris. Ce dernier a voulu passer un message pacifique, en relatant l’exode massif des familles juives marocaines et notamment juives amazighes en Israël. Le réalisateur a fouillé dans le passé pour collecter plus d’informations sur cet exode (Les raisons et les conséquences) qui a laissé des cicatrices profondes dans l’histoire d’un Maroc multiple et pluriel.

La journée de ce Mercredi 21 Novembre a commencé par une petite tournée dans le centre Maimonide, la où les membres et les invités du club accompagnés de Kamel Hachkar, ont découvert une salle que je dirais «nostalgique», pleins de photos sur les murs qui témoignent d’une époque merveilleuse, des visites de personnalités célèbres représentant les deux communautés juive et musulmane de la ville de Fès, une époque aujourd’hui révolue.

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En commençant par une présentation générale du Club Mimouna Fez, les participants de cette table ronde étaient excités à discuter et à avoir plus d’informations sur ce film documentaire et surtout, ils ont voulu savoir les raisons qui ont poussé ce réalisateur à travailler sur ce sujet et sur Tinghir particulièrement. Quant a lui Kamal Hachkar, il était très généreux sur ce niveau, il a expliqué davantage l’idée de ce film documentaire, en le présentant comme moyen important pour passer des messages de paix et de tolérance et surtout, pour encourager les Marocains à s’ouvrir sur la culture, les arts, et les identités de leurs pays.

table ronde

Kamal Hachkar, a mentionné des noms qui ont encouragé et soutenu la réalisation de ce travail, dont feu Simon Levy. Il a ajouté que ce travail a été le fruit de plusieurs années de recherches un peu partout dans les archives de certaines villes (Rabat, Casablanca, Fès, Nantes, Jérusalem etc.) Il a parlé aussi de multiples étapes qu’il a traversé pour pouvoir réaliser cette oeuvre à la manière qu’il voulait. Avec enthousiasme et bonne volonté, ce jeune Franco-Marocain a su réaliser ses objectifs, et je cite quelques uns : l’encouragement des jeunes à la préservation et la protection du patrimoine culturel Marocain. Et l’appel à la mobilisation des jeunes pour construire un monde où la paix et la tolérance ont une place indispensable.

Après avoir traité plusieurs sujets concernant ce film documentaire qui a récolté plusieurs prix nationaux et internationaux, l’ensemble des participants à cette table ronde se sont mis d’accord que l’acceptation d’autrui malgré ses différences, est un moyen indispensable pour que la paix et la tolérance jaillissent dans les cœurs des gens, et qu’il faut obligatoirement éduquer les générations qui viennent à conserver et prendre soin de leur héritage et histoire.

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Le patrimoine culturel Marocain nous appartient à nous tous, juifs et musulmans, arabes et amazighs, Préservons le!

 

— Je tiens à remercier au nom de l’équipe organisatrice et aux noms de tous les amis du Club Mimouna, M. Armand Guigui le président de la communauté juive de Fès, Sefrou, et Oujda qui nous a donné la chance d’avoir un local où l’évènement s’est déroulé.

 

Récit par Bouchra Choukrani

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On Friday, March 16th, 2012, I premiered the documentary “My Neighbor… The Jew” at the American Language Center of Fez. As part of the event, I introduced my work. My presentation was as follows:

In 2008, I was walking by a mosque in my neighborhood and I heard the Imam shouting “May God kill the Jews.” I was frightened to hear such a statement from an influential person, someone who is preaching to thousands of people. It was like a slap in the face. Now, to give background to this, it was Friday, and Gaza was under Israeli attack. The Imam did not draw a line between Israel and Jews. In other words, Jews in Morocco, for instance, are not responsible for that massacre. On the contrary, in that evening during the Shabbat service, there was a prayer for peace in the Middle East. Here is the thing, only few people know about this act: Jews praying for peace in Gaza. However, a lot of people think they know that Jews are evil. That is when I decided to bring that out from the synagogue where there were at most 15 people, to be shared with the world, or at least, with Moroccans.

Let me share a funny story with you. Usually, to mark the end of the Shabbat, three stars should appear in the sky. Jews in the synagogue of Fez are a bit spoiled; they depend on the evening call to prayer, saying that “this man knows!”

My Neighbor… The Jew is the product of this desire, to show this common life between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. I worked on this documentary with two veiled Muslim girls: Camellia Filali, and Afaf Lahbabi. They both joined in this ambition and journey of presenting a balanced view of Jews in Morocco. We opted for this title, in order to highlight the concept of Neighbor. The neighbor in both Islam, Judaism as well as in the Moroccan culture is almost hallowed. The Hebrew Bible says: “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” (Leviticus 19: 18) which includes the Muslim neighbor. There is a Hadith narrated by the Prophet of Islam that states “The best neighbour in Allah’s estimation is the one who is best to his neighbour.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Number 1287) and the famous Moroccan proverb declares “Choose your neighbor before your house.” With these thoughts, I will leave you to watch the film.

These were the very same words with which I presented My Neighbor… The Jew at the American Language Center of Fez. The hot room did not take away people’s interest in watching all the documentaries presented. After the presentation and  showing, the audience was given room to ask questions and react to the film. To my surprise, people reacted rather to my presentation. I was attacked for using the word “Imam” and one girl addressed me saying “you show two different groups, the Jews are praying for peace, and Muslims as evil” others agreed saying “you over generalized.” This article is basically a response to these remarks.

It was amusing to learn that these people who criticized my usage of the word “Imam” were rather concerned for the westerners who were present in the room. They believed that these westerners would get the idea that the Imam is an evil person, and then end up stereotyping Muslims. Wait a minute! The Imam is not an angel, is he? An Imam is someone who learns the whole Quran by heart, there are many Imams in the mosques who do not even have a decent education. And having them preaching to thousands of people, is dangerous!

I made sure before starting my presentation that I was going to share personal stories. I started with “I was walking by A mosque in my neighborhood…” I see no generalization here, I did not say “throughout Morocco” or “I have always heard Imams saying”, etc. Now to tell the full story. On a Friday, I was walking by the mosque in my neighborhood, and I was attracted by the large number of people praying, who even used the street as an extension of the mosque. The Imam/ preacher’s voice was loud enough (loud speakers) that it could be heard from miles away. I was amazed with the excitement that accompanied “Amen!” The Imam in a trembling voice, full of faith, was cursing the Jews. He was literally shouting “May God kill the Jews, May He pour his anger on them, May He orphan their children.” I understood that the sermon must be about the war on Gaza which was going on at that time (2008).

As long as there are feelings like that, there will be Muslims who feel responsible to “change” the world and make it better, and go to Jewish schools (like in Toulouse) and kill innocent people to please their leaders. The dangerous thing is that they believe that they are doing the right thing and maybe are even promised paradise by doing such acts. Let me remind you, that these are not purely Islamic acts, but Muslims’ acts, and there is a difference. Islam is not terrorism and it does not promote the killing of innocent people nor of the people of the book. It is rather the Muslim religious leaders who interpret the religion differently to satisfy their political agendas, or simply their hatred. The best example of a Muslim man to be talked about in this regard is the prophet Mohammad. Nobody can deny his peaceful relationships with the people of the book. There are several Hadiths regarding this. I recall one that says: if the Day of Judgment should arrive and if someone has a sapling in his hands, he should plant it first. One should deduce that the man who brought Islam to the world is against destruction. He is against such terrorist acts. So learn from him and follow his example. The Quran promotes respect to the people of the book, since they are the first to belong to a monotheist religion. The Quran clearly states that “If any one slew a person it would be as if he slew the whole people, and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5: 32) It is obvious that the religion is not to blame, but rather the people. I suggest that the imams, religious leaders, revise their sermons.

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Are there Jews in Morocco? This is the first question that documentary maker, Youness Abeddour poses to local Moroccans in his documentary titled “Moroccan Judaism: A Culture in Danger.” The answers to this seemingly simple question, leads Abeddour into a rich discussion about Moroccan Judaism, in which he addresses many topics such as the history of Jews in Morocco, and questions of culture, language and identity.

Abeddour’s documentary is laid out on such way that one can understand how the past relates to the present and how an integral part of the citizenry, Moroccan Jews, came to be a part of the Moroccan landscape. Additionally, Abeddour’s documentary attempts to shed light on a few key terms, such as Zionism, that are often confounded and which often dilute such crucial conversations. Abeddour uses a variety of mediums to explore this topic, such as expert testimonials, documentary clips, and photos and through the intersections of these three means, a dynamic presentation emerges where the viewer is probed to think critically and deeply about the role of this underrepresented community, including their history and their contributions to Moroccan culture.

Of particular value to this discussion is Abeddour’s segment on how “Moroccanness,” is conceptualized as a function religion and language. This adds an interesting dimension in understanding how Moroccan Jews may have to grapple with their own identities as both Moroccan and Jewish, particularly those who speak a language other than Arabic.

Abeddour has done a great service to representing Moroccan Judaism and this documentary is critical for broadening the discussion on a minority population within Morocco. Further, this documentary is ever more important because it gives voice to Moroccan Jews, where such voices are underrepresented, and often neglected or silenced because of the political climate of the Middle East.

While the documentary was very interesting and informative, the length of the documentary was short, thus shortchanging many of the important topics that were presented in this documentary. Therefore, rather than discussing few topics in great length, many topics were addressed briefly. While this meant that the viewer emerged with more general information about this topic, it would have been interesting to see this documentary delve more deeply into specific topics such as Moroccan Jewish identity. Moreover, it would have been interesting to include more personal perspectives on how individual Moroccan Jewish perceive their identity and role in Moroccan culture and how this might relate to their conceptualization of citizenship and belongingness. That said, this documentary was definitely worth watching and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gaining some preliminary knowledge about Moroccan Jews.

By Maha Hilal

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August, 2011.

          “You can change that, Youness” said Jamal Morelli, my documentary supervisor. The Arab media has shaped people’s minds greatly which has caused confusion concerning who is a Jew and who is a Zionist. The term Jew has become linked with war, guns, killing Palestinians, Israel, Zionism, and a whole list of bloody events. In Morocco, many people sympathize with Palestinians because they are Arabs and Muslims, which automatically puts Israel (or Jews as they see it) in the side of the enemy. The audio-visual has a very large impact on the viewers, for example people would boycott Israel whenever media told them to do so.

         I started working on Moroccan Judaism in 2009, when I first wrote a thesis on The Presence of the Mellah in Morocco for my B.A. It dealt with defining the key terms and the history of Jews in Morocco. Lately, and because the audio-visual is easier to reach and takes only some minutes to show rather than tell, I worked on a documentary film on the Moroccan Jewish Culture and decided to call it Moroccan Judaism: A Culture in Danger.

          In this documentary I interview scholars, researchers, professors, etc. they all contribute in educating the viewers about the presence of Jews in Morocco, their history, culture, language, and life in a Muslim country. The documentary is divided into five main chapters. I start with a vox pop asking people in the streets of Fez whether they know about Jews in Morocco, they reacted differently and I managed to catch their spontaneous reactions with the camera. I follow this with the key terms which are: Judaism, Zionism and the Moroccan Jewish Culture. I believe it is important to start with definitions to help people follow the train of thought. By giving definitions I show that the documentary is not dealing with Zionism, nor Judaism but rather with the culture, the Moroccan Jewish culture as an important aspect of the Moroccan Culture as a whole. 

         “Where did Jews come from?” this is the title of the chapter which introduces us to the early immigrations of Jews to Morocco, followed by the ones who joined from Spain after the Inquisition. The Mellah, which is the Jewish quarter in Morocco, is discussed as an essential component of Judaism in Morocco. Simon Levy elaborates on the meaning of the word and why Fez was home for the first Mellah.

          The chapter that takes the title “Moroccan Citizens” highlights the language that Moroccan Jews speak, and shows some aspects of coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. The climax of the documentary is the “Exodus” which has caused much misunderstanding among Moroccans even until today. Finally, “Save Moroccan Judaism,” shows some examples of how this culture might be preserved. Museums, restoring and renovating synagogues, and the Geniza project (which is basically dedicated to helping researchers on Moroccan Judaism) are some examples. Music and its importance in bridging cultural gaps, is the ending of the documentary.

         The documentary was premiered at the American Language Center of Fez, I received some useful feedback there. I also projected it at the International Institute for Languages and Cultures (INLAC) in Fez in the presence of American and Moroccan university students, teachers, directors. There was a very useful discussion since the majority didn’t know about this aspect of the Moroccan Culture. 

          Recently a review of my documentary was published on Morocco World News, you can read it here: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2011/08/moroccan-judaism-a-culture-in-danger/ 

          I was pleasantly surprised to read a comment on my Youtube channel from a fellow whose simple English did not keep him from expressing his opinion about this project, he states: “Hello, my name’s Zakaria Faqyr, really I’m improve  that moroccan jews make a lot of things to riche the cultural, science and economic mind of moroccan people ,I’m Muslum but really that works (moroccan jews works) let me thinking more and more about our friendship , sorry! our brothership. thank you so much for your hard working.” [sic.] Reading this I feel that my goal is being accomplished and people are adopting a new perspective to understand Moroccan Judaism and Jews. Therefore my answer to you sir is “I will.”

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Moroccan Judaism is a culture in danger. What was once a key part of Moroccan culture and society is now being forgotten and many people in Morocco do not even know that Jews still live among them. There is much confusion and even resentment caused by the massive Jewish immigration to Israel and many people now confuse terms such as Judaism and Zionism. This confusion and lack of information has caused many people to forget or to even look negatively on a people who were once their neighbors and a culture that is even now intricately a part of their own. This film seeks to resolve the confusion and to educate people about this history of a culture which cannot be separated from Moroccan culture as a whole. This is the abstract of the 30 minute documentary film that I have recently produced. Among the interviewees there are: Simon Levy, Vanessa Paloma, Armand Guigui, Maurice Elbaz, Moshe Amar, Mohamed Hatimi, Oren Kosansky, etc.

It was projected and discussed in the following places: Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah Univeristy (Fez), American Language Center (Fez), International Institute for Languages and Cultures (Fez), Amicitia American School (Fez). It will also be shown in different places including:  Maimonid Center (Fez), Al Akhawayne University (Ifrane), The Jewish Museum (Casablanca), in addition to some universities in America.

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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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