First Jewish Film Festival in Casablanca draws nearly 500 viewers

The first Jewish Film festival to be held in the largest Moroccan city of Casablanca drew close to 500 visitors last week.

The three-day festival which closed on Wednesday featured three films about the “consequences of the emigration of the Jews from the fabric of Moroccan society,” was organized by Vanessa Paloma, a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta. Paloma, has lived in Casablanca with her Moroccan-Jewish husband since 2009.

One film, “Aida”, tells the story of a Parisian Jewish music teacher who is fighting cancer, and was the Moroccan submission to the Academy Awards for best foreign language film.

Israel and Morocco have not maintained official relations since 2000, when the Israeli embassy in Rabat was shut down amid the Second Intifada, however Israel and Morocco have kept a relatively friendly relationship compared to other Arab countries.

Moroccan author and former member of the center-left Socialist Union of Popular Forces party Jaouad Benaissi, was one of the festival’s critics.

Targeting the festival’s theme as inappropriate, Benaissi wrote on Facebook that “man-made artworks have nothing to do with religion.”

Another critic, journalist Abdelilah Jouhari, claimed that Paloma was “trying to make business with religion.”

Paloma responded to her critics, telling that “Jewish is not necessarily religious but also cultural, and that in the tradition of Jewish film festivals which exist around the world, we want to start this dialogue around Moroccan history, culture and traditions of Jews as presented on the silver screen.”

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