- Title: EGYPT-FILM/JEWS Students make film about Egypts dwindling Jewish community
- Date: 23rd August 2015
- Summary: VARIOUS OF AUDIENCE WATCHING SCREENING OF "GRANDCHILD OF COHEN"
- Embargoed: 7th September 2015 13:00
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA12YR2R9DV54132W7H4EWD45EB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A new documentary giving an insight into the lives of Egyptian Jews, ''The Grandchild of Cohen', has been screened in Cairo.
The film is a result of a graduation project produced and directed by a selection of media students from Cairo University.
The project, which was awarded second place in the university's media department, documents the search process for Egypt's remaining Jewish diaspora, a remnant of a once flourishing minority.
Fifteen students worked on the documentary which took over a year to produce.
The university provided the students with all the equipment they needed to produce the film.
Student Sayed Al-Hariry was the main actor in the feature.
"The ''Grandson of Cohen'' film is our graduation project. It's a documentary that talks about Jews in Egypt, how they left Egypt and whether they were forced to leave or they voluntarily left. The film, briefly, talks about a student who is studying media at university - I play that role - who is assigned to do a research about Jews in Egypt, or interview somebody who's Jewish, so he begins his research just like any other media student or producer would do," said Hariry after the screening.
Egypt's Jewish community has struggled to keep the faith alive and maintain its culture after its numbers dwindled to a few dozen members in recent years, from some 80,000 in the 1950s.
Most Jews fled Egypt due to attacks on the community during and after the 1956 war, when Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula along with Britain and France in an attempt to regain control of the Suez Canal.
The exodus was fuelled by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the first war between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbours.
Speaking about some of the obstacles they encountered during the production process, Hariry said the most challenging thing was people's reaction on the topic.
"Our biggest challenge is that the film is about Jews. This, on its own, is an obstacle - to go out in the streets and ask something like "excuse me, where's the Jewish temple?" They think you must be crazy or an Israeli. There was a video going around recently of a man dressed in traditional Jewish wear and what happened to him in the streets, but on the contrary, we found that people were very helpful, in the Jew's district, they weren't as surprised as we'd thought. There were some security obstacles, relatively, but people were generally very understanding of what we were trying to do," he said.
Norhan al-Masarei, a student and one of the producers of the film, said that it was interesting for her to work on the project, as a Palestinian.
"It took us a year to produce the film, it was our faculty's graduation project, and it received second place in the media department. At the beginning we wanted to do something about minorities, but then we decided to focus on the Jewish minority - I was very interested to learn about them - this is what encouraged us," she said.
Khaled Gamal, the assistant professor who supervised the project, said he was very intrigued when the students proposed the idea to him. He said some people thought the film is calling for better relations with Israel.
"I have heard some comments, when the film was screened at one place, that it was calling for neutrality (with Israel) which really surprised me because we didn't mention Israel at all, the film is about the Jews of Egypt, we're talking about Egyptians, and haven't mentioned Israelis at all. So, who is this neutrality supposed to be with," he said.
The producers of the film say they plan to hold screenings all around Egypt.
In 2013 Egypt's censorship office gave permission for the screening of "The Jews of Egypt", a historical documentary about the country's Jewish community, following a delay by a security agency who had expressed reservations about the title.
The film depicts changes in Egyptian society's acceptance of its ancient Jewish minority in the first half of the 20th century.
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