Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: The Forgotten Ones

I’m delighted to be returning for the eighth time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of thought-provoking and often difficult, complex, Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 16th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually and in-person November 3rd-10th, 2022.

The Forgotten Ones
Directed by Michale Boganim
Ticket Information

It’s dispiriting but sadly not surprising to learn that discrimination is a universal concept that isn’t unique to any one country or situation. The establishment of Israel as a haven for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust should have been a welcome call for Jews from all over the world, particularly places in which they still faced persecution, to come to somewhere that would accept them as they are. Yet the experience of Mizrahi Jews coming from North Africa and the Middle East was considerably colder and dominated by a condescending division from their European counterparts.

Filmmaker Michale Boganim looks at her own family as a key instance of this reality, charting her father’s arrival to Israel from Morocco and the treatment he faced. The founding of the Israeli Black Panthers and their perception of a similar situation within the United States at the same moment is central to his legacy, along with the response of the Israeli government to what they saw as an undesirable and potentially dangerous community not worthy of their attention, and certainly not of the respect for which they were advocating.

It’s interesting to see how, in many cases, the Mizrahi Jews who have come from predominantly Arab countries find themselves living peacefully alongside their Arab neighbors since that’s something they were all used to back home. Seeing a common ally, some advocate that Arabic should be taught just like English in school, while others seek to distance themselves from Arabs since they believe that makes them stand out even more, eager instead to be accepted and perceived as just as Jewish or Israeli as those of European descent.

Among the themes explored in this documentary is the idea that there are devoutly religious Mizrahi Jews who are still not seen as equal to those with lighter skin, and the discrimination they experience is often veiled as something less toxic and covered up with excuses. It’s a disturbing and compelling subject that was also dramatized in “The Unorthodox” and is very much worthy of a spotlight, and Boganim strongly surveys the ways in which this has come to permeate and define Israeli society. Tracing this phenomenon from its roots to how it continues to manifest in today’s world is often unpleasant but clearly important and worthwhile. It’s both a specific case study and one that audiences from anywhere should have no trouble finding a way to comprehend and find relatable.


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