All-Star Sephardi Musical to Open the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival: Feb 23 to March 2  - The Jewish Voice
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All-Star Sephardi Musical to Open the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival: Feb 23 to March 2 

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The New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (NYSJFF) announces its action-packed 2020 program of 19 films. Showcasing 11 première films, including two world premières (THE WOLF OF BAGHDAD and THE HUG OF DESTINY), the NYSJFF specializes in bringing to NY audiences compelling, Greater Sephardi narratives and documentaries, comedies and critical perspectives that celebrate the beauty, diversity, and vitality of the Jewish experience. 10 filmmakers will be joining the NYSJFF for post-screening Q&As and several stars will be honored with the Pomegranate Award for Sephardi Excellence in the Arts. The Pomegranate Awards are hand-sculpted by world-renowned Baghdad-born artist Oded Halahmy of the Pomegranate Gallery in Soho and Jaffa.

Preliminary estimates indicate that the first wave of Jews who settled in Albania were survivors of a shipwreck containing Jewish slaves on their way to Rome as early as 70 CE. Based on original documents and eyewitnesses, HUG OF DESTINY is an illuminating documentary about the history of Jewish people in Albania and Kosovo, including the largely unknown story of Jewish lives saved by Muslims during the Holocaust. Special appearances are made by Edi Rama (Albania’s Prime Minister), Kadri Veseli (President of Kosovo’s Parliament), and Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel’s Prime Minister).

“We are exceptionally proud to present the NY première of RED FIELDS for Opening Night on February 23rd. Keren Yedaya is a Cannes Film Festival favorite and her latest, award-winning cinematic gem features an all-star Sephardi cast, including Neta Elkayam and Dudu Tassa,” said Sara Nodjoumi, Artistic Director of the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.

Nodjoumi produced REGGAE BOYZ (Audience Award, Brooklyn Film Festival 2019), WHEN GOD SLEEPS (PBS 2018, Passion for Freedom Gold Award Winner, 2018) and THE IRAN JOB (Shortlisted German Academy Award, 2014) and is a programming alumna of the Tribeca Film Festival.

“New York audiences will be pleased to know that we have films spanning the Greater Sephardi world. These are stories steeped in history, community, and traditions,” said Nodjoumi.

“The 23rd NYSJFF prides itself on providing our patrons with premières, such as THE WOMEN’S BALCONY and LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD, exceptional films that went on to win international awards and have strong theatrical runs,” said Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation.

“The NYSJFF challenges audiences to think outside the shtetel with programs dedicated to exploring Ladino (including a classic film starring Tom Hanks); Greek, Italian, and Balkan Jews in the Holocaust; Portuguese conversos (Crypto-Jews); the Syrian Sephardic community coming to America; and Jewish life in Azerbaijan, Israel, Iraq, Mexico, and Morocco,” Guberman added.

“This year’s edition will bring great films, Q&As, and celebrations. I’m deeply proud to have iconic French film director Elie Chouraqui, popular Syrian Sephardi actor Dan Hedaya, and poetic Israeli storyteller Karen Yedaya joining us to be honored. We will also present a special Moroccan Night After Party and Iraqi Closing Night with many surprises! The NYSJFF is full of wonderful memories and important cultural exchange,” said David Serero, the NYSJFF’s Producer and a Moroccan-French Sephardi opera singer.

Serero, who previously created and starred in the ASF’s successful theatrical seasons (Merchant of Venice, Nabucco, Don Giovanni, Cyrano de Bergerac, Othello, Romeo and Juliet), staged a critical, well-received reading of The Jew of Malta, performed at the ASF for world leaders, including the President of Portugal Marcel Rebelo de Sousa and Mr. André Azoulay, Senior Counsellor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and is the co-founder, producer, and artistic director of the ASF’s American Sephardi Music Festival, which has featured such international talents as Yemen Blues, Francoise Atlan, Gerard Edery, and Itamar Borochov. He recently received an Award for Diversity at the UNESCO in Paris.

All films and events are taking place at the Center for Jewish History located at 15 West 16th Street. The special screening of LEONA for Mexican Night will occur at Instituto Cervantes (211 East 49th Street, New York, NY, 10017).

The complete list of selected NYSJFF films with dates, times, pass, and ticket information can be found at

Passes or special night tickets may be purchased at or by calling the box office at 1.800.838.3006

Sunday, 23 February
1:00PM: Levantine (U.S. Première)

3:00PM: Ma’abarot

6:00PM: Opening Night – Red Fields (NY Première)

Monday, 24 February
1:00PM: Stockholm

5:00PM: Say Amen (NY Première)

7:00PM: Greek Night –  Life Will Smile (NY Première); Romaniotes: The Greek Jews of Ioannina

Tuesday, 25 February
12:00PM: Shalom Italia
2:00PM: The Hug of Destiny (World Première)

6:00PM: The Last Jew in the Village (U.S. Première)

8:00PM: Portuguese Night – The Nun’s Kaddish (NY Première); Sefarad (NY Première)

Wednesday, 26 February
1:00PM: Everytime We Say Goodbye

4:00PM: The Final Hour (U.S. Première)

7:00PM – Moroccan Night – Where Are You Going Moshé?

Thursday, 27 February
2:00PM: Wanderings: A Journey to Connect

7:00PM: Iraqi Closing Night – The Wolf of Baghdad (U.S. Première)

Saturday, 29 February
8:00PM: The Syrian Jewish Community: Coming to America (1900-1919)

Monday, 2 March
7:00PM: Mexican Night – Leona
*At Instituto Cervantes

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