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Movies in the Spotlight: Forget Baghdad שכח מבגדד

forget-baghdad-21466Forget Baghdad שכח מבגדד

In the documentary Forget Baghdad, שכח מבגדד, 2003, the director, writer and narrator, Samir, delves into the lives of four Iraqi-born Jews living in Israel. He asks the question “what is it like to change your country, to forget your culture and language and to become the enemy of your own past?” Samir has compelling personal reasons for wanting to know. Born in Iraq, but raised in Switzerland, he is the son of a Shiite Muslim.

Shimon Ballas, Moshe Houri, Sami Michael and Samir Naqqash, Jewish men in their 70”s, grew up in Iraq at a time when Arabs and Jews coexisted there more or less peacefully (S. Holden, New York Times, De. 5, 2003).

All four are self-described Mizrahim (Oriental Jews) living in a country dominated by Ashkenazi (European-descended) Jews. About two-thirds of the movie is devoted to reminiscences. The other third focuses on the work of Ella Habiba Shohat, an Israeli film scholar devoted to analyzing the stereotypes of Mizrahim in Israeli cinema.

The movie is provocative. These four men are among the 120,000 Jews who were forced to flee Baghdad after the establishment of the state of Israel. Ms. Shohat emphasizes how movies perpetuate and reinforce negative racial and cultural stereotypes. Her book “Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation” (1989) created a stir when it was published in Israel, where the discussion of such matters was frowned upon. I found her book enlightening and the movie an inspirational window and a confirmation of the prejudices still at work in Israel.

In English with Arabic and Hebrew subtitles.

Reviewed by Dolores Luber

These movies are available free from the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library at the JCC.

The Waldman Library encourages you to donate your DVDs, in either NTSC or PAL format. We wish to create a collection of films which is inclusive and comprehensive and we depend on our friends to donate either their DVDs or to make a contribution towards the purchase of more films. Thank you.