400 Miles to Freedom
Director: Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen and Shari Rothfarb Mekonen
USA, Israel, 2012, 61 min.
English, Hebrew, Amharic
In 1984, the Beta Israel, a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains, fled a dictatorship and began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co-director Avishai Mekonen, then a 10 year old boy, was among them. 400 Miles to Freedom follows his story as he breaks the 20 year silence around the brutal kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa, and in so doing explores issues of immigration and racial diversity in Judaism.
Director: Monica Haim
USA, 2004, 86 min.
Awake Zion is a documentary film that explores the connections between reggae culture and Judaism. It‘s a story about unsuspecting cultural convergence; a story about shared symbols and themes by people who might seem to be on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum. Many conversations about Black and Jewish cultures tend to be shrouded in conflict and adversity. Awake Zion hopes to shed light on the positive relationship that may exist there behind the music, behind the laws, and behind the history. Through the themes of music, roots and culture, Awake Zion is an audio-visual dialogue that aims to expose the senselessness of hate or intolerance by highlighting kinship as opposed to difference.
Director: Dan Wolman
Israel, 2000, 86 min.
Hebrew, Amharic with subtitles
Everyday Naomi, a 50-year old woman from Tel Aviv, wakes up early in the morning with the same routine. She takes out the garbage, washes last night’s dishes, starts doing laundry, and wakes up the family for work and school. She’s bored and tired out of her mind. She craves excitement or something different. When her husband decides to ease her stress, he hires a maid to help her out. Negist (Markos), the maid, is an Ethiopian Christian illegal worker. At first reluctant to let Negist handle a lot of her work, Naomi warms up to Negist, and is shock to discover her maid’s plight for comfort. Not only is Negist in the country illegal and avoiding deportation, she lives in a house with 9 other illegal immigrants.
Keep on Walking: Joshua Nelson, The Jewish Gospel Singer
Director: Tana Ross, Jesper Sorensen, Freke Vuijst and Vibeke Winding
USA, 1980, 53 min.
A seemingly contradictory portrait of a young African-American observant Jew who is both an up-and-coming gospel singer and a Hebrew teacher.
Live and Become
In 1984, in a Sudanese refugee camp sheltering Ethiopians displaced by civil war and famine, the Israeli army has begun “Operation Moses”, airlifting thousands of Ethiopians Jews, to Israel. A Christian Ethiopian mother persuades a Jewish woman whose own son has just died from starvation, to allow her son to assume his identity. In tears, she orders her son to never divulge his secret for fear he will be returned, and tells him to “live and become”. Renamed Schlomo, the boy is adopted by an adoring, liberal Israeli couple. However, he remains an outsider, surviving only through his family’s love. We follow Schlomo as he becomes a Jewish teenager and an idealistic young medical student. With the help of an Ethiopian Rabbi, he writes letters to his real mother back home and is forced to make the heart-wrenching decision about whether to admit to the deception that has shadowed his entire childhood.
Married in America
(No longer available on AETV)
Cheryl deBorja and Dr. Neal Moskowitz are the featured subjects on the A&E Network’s documentary series “Married in America”. The documentary will follow their marriage for the next 10 years. A&E has already aired the first episode in June 2002 and will film them for the next installment sometime this winter.
Director: Daniel Wachsmann
Israel , 1999, 60 min.
Hebrew and Ahmaric w/subtitles
Gadi Abaja is a young Ethiopian living on the margins of Israeli society in Tel-Aviv’s central bus station. He survives by theft, but he dreams of turning the station’s public-address system into a late-night Amharic radio show with a reggae beat – a cultural symbol of minority protest. As the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Gadi is like Menelik, the legendary son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Feeling misunderstood by Israelis, he misses his mother in Ethiopia very much and awaits a reply to his many letters – which never come. The film follows Gadi’s journey back to his birthplace in search of his past, but a much-anticipated, emotional homecoming in Ethiopia reveals more about Gadi’s present: his adopted Israeli identity.
Minyan in Kaifeng
Director: Steven Calcote and Jonathan Shulman
USA, 2002, 74 min.
Hebrew and Ahmaric w/subtitles
It was mid-December 1997 when 15 travelers from the Chinese northern capital of Beijing spent a sleepless night journeying by train to the ancient eastern capital of Kaifeng. The pilgrims arrived Friday morning, and began immediately scouring the city, searching for vestiges of an almost forgotten past. Their pains were soon rewarded when they found what they had come looking for – descendants of an 800-year-old Jewish community still residing in Kaifeng. This documentary film begins with interviews of all the pilgrimage members concerning their thoughts and expectations for the trip and videos all their activities: visits to the museum, the Jewish quarter, the services, up to and including the culminating discussion following the trip.
Director: Destau Damotow
Israel, 2003, 30 min.
Amharic, Hebrew with English subtitles
Destau Damtou’s docudrama Outcry presents a fascinating insight into a particularly unexplored world, that of the Ethiopian Jewish minority living in Israel. An Ethiopian youth stares at his handgun and contemplates recent events: five of his friends lie dead beside the bodies of four Israeli policemen; a documentary filmmaker attempts to extract personal responses to the tragedy from members of the local Ethiopian and Israeli communities. This fractured narrative is unerringly captured by the young Ethiopian filmmaker.
Re-emerging: The Jews of Nigeria
Director: Jeff L. Lieberman
USA, Nigeria, 2012, 93 min.
With the introduction of the Internet in Nigerian society, young Igbo men began to research their history and noticed a pattern of similarities between Igbo and Jewish traditions. This discovery gave rise to Igbo shaking off years of Colonial Christianity and fueling a movement toward Jewish identity and practice, which has been fraught with turns into Messianic worship, family exile, prejudice from Muslim and Christian neighbors, and scorn from Jews in the Western world, yet it has also been a communal journey. Panel discussion to follow screening.
The Angel Levine
Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Ida Kaminska, Milo O’Shea, Gloria Foster
Morris Mishkin is a elderly religious Jew in New York. His wife Fanny is very ill. He’s a tailor, but he can’t work because his back has given out. He doesn’t even have enough money for Fanny’s medicine. Finally, a black fellow appears from nowhere in the Mishkin kitchen. He says he’s an angel from God, sent to help Mishkin. The black angel is even Jewish, named Alex Levine? But will Morris believe in the angel? And can the angel perform the miracle that he promises?
The Jewish Communities of Kaifeng and San’a
Ergo Media Inc.
The Jewish communities of Kaifeng (China) and San’a (Yemen) are the subject of this fascinating video.
Prince of Egypt
USA, 1998, 99 mins, video
The musical, animated version of the Exodus story contains depictions of Jews of color.
Shari’s Pasover Surprise/Lamb Chop’s Passover Special
USA, 1996, 60 min
This film now comes packaged with Lamb Chop’s Chanukah. In the telling of the story of Passover, an African-American man makes a connection between Passover and slavery.