By Samir


Documentary - Completed 2002

A filmic reflection about the stereotypes of "the Jew" and " the Arab" through one hundred years of film, linked with the biographies of four extraordinary people: Iraqui-Jewish communists.

    • Year of production
    • 2002
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Duration
    • 112 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Samir
    • Writer(s)
    • Samir
    • Producer(s)
    • Gerhard HAAG (Tag/Traum Filmproduktion), Karin KOCH (Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion AG), Samir (Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion AG)
    • Synopsis
    • A film reflecting upon the clichés of „the Jew” and „the Arab” in the last hundred years of cinema, combined with the biographies of some extraordinary individuals: Iraqi-Jewish communists.
      „Son of the Sheikh” – „Jud Süss” – „Exodus” – „True Lies”. Silent film star Valentino as the noble Bedouin. The image of the „greedy Jew” serving the Nazi cause. Paul Newman as the blue-eyed Jewish freedom fighter in Palestine. The dark-skinned, hook-nosed, hysterically shrieking Arab terrorist who gets annihilated by Schwarzenegger… A muddled composite of cineastic memories!
      Jewish Arabs? Arab Jews? Sephardim? Mizrahim? – Over the past few years, there has been a lively debate in Israel, mainly among intellectual „Mizrahim” (Middle Eastern Jews). Their criticism is directed at the politics of alienation and instrumentalization of Arab Jews, stemming from the colonial pretensions asserted by Israel’s European-influenced founding generation.
      Over the years, Samir – himself the child of Iraqi immigrants in Switzerland – has focused on the issues of alienation and the formation of identity in his films. In the context of this discussion, Prof. Ella Shohat (sociologist and film historian at the City University of New York) is one of the most important figures in the film. Raised in Israel as the daughter of Iraqi Jews, she reflects on her history.
      The film „Forget Baghdad” also focuses on the life stories of four other exceptional individuals: Shimon Ballas, Professor of Arabic in Tel Aviv, is involved in the pro-Palestinian peace and civil rights movement. Sami Michael, one of Israel’s most famous best-selling authors, who broke with the communists back in the mid-1950s. Moshe (Moussa) Houri, a wealthy kiosk owner and building contractor in a Tel Aviv suburb who to this day continues to vote for communists. Samir Naqqash, the only one of the four who still writes in Arabic. His works of literature have brought him critical acclaim and quite a number of prizes but publishers these days are no longer interested in bringing out his books – neither those in the Arab world nor those in Israel…
      The four old protagonists were influenced back in their youth by the internationalism of the Iraqi communist party. Yet in the early 1950s, their religious background as Arab Jews put them at odds with the rising Arab nationalism which, paradoxically, they had been supporting with their political work as communists. Fleeing to Israel was like going from the frying pan into the fire, where as communists they were treated like outsiders and viewed with suspicion. Though they felt part of the Arab world, they had no choice but to assimilate and adopt a new culture. Their identity as „Mizrahim” and their political orientation made them frequent targets of chauvinistic ignorance. Their lives thus provide exemplary reflections of this century’s history and how the „new world disorder” came to take hold.
      As in his earlier documentary „Babylon 2” (1993), Samir interweaves the various levels to create an artistic and entertaining montage film.
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