They Were Promised the Sea

A myth-shattering documentary about women and men whose identity as Arab Jews challenges the very notion of enemy
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Devorah Miller
Film
Toronto, Ontario
Canada
1 Team Member

April 11, 2013 - An Update from filmmaker Kathy Wazana

Preview Screening draws sell-out crowd!

"Kathy Wazana has made a startlingly truthful, beautiful and fierce film that successfully explodes years of myth and manipulation with intelligence and heart. A necessary work."                                    –– Sarah Schulman, novelist, historian, playwright (New York)

It's been an exhilarating few weeks. On March 24, thanks to the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, I was able to hold a preview screening of They Were Promised the Sea at the TIFF Lightbox in downtown Toronto. To my amazement, the screening drew a sell-out crowd, and the audience response was overwhelmingly positive. The most consistent reaction I heard was: "I had no idea... I learned so much... I wish everyone I know could see this film!”

One audience member wrote: "Your film is a GIFT and I want to thank you deeply for sharing so much so exquisitely. I am telling all of my friends and family to go see it.....AND SUPPORT IT."

Another told me: "The music is so beautiful; it brought tears to my eyes."

People who read about it on facebook have been writing with requests to bring the film to communities and campuses across North America, and beyond.

I am overjoyed with this response. In the coming days, I hope to share with you some exciting news and an invitation to the trip of a lifetime.

People are ready for a new conversation about Arabs and Jews. But we can't do it without you.

Your support is needed to make this happen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

About the film

What does it mean to be an Arab Jew?

"As an Arab Jew, I am often obliged to explain the "mysteries" of this oxymoronic entity. That we have spoken Arabic, not Yiddish; that for millennia our cultural creativity, secular and religious, had been largely articulated in Arabic. If you go to our synagogues, even in New York, Montreal, Paris or London, you'll be amazed to hear the winding quarter tones of our music which the uninitiated might imagine to be coming from a mosque." 

-- Ella Shohat,"Dislocated Identities: Reflections of an Arab‑Jew," Movement Research: Performance Journal # 5 (Fall‑Winter, 1992) p. 8.

Filmmaker Kathy Wazana set out to discover why hundreds of thousands of Jews left Morocco in the 1960s, believing their Arab homeland had become enemy territory. What she found was a country still grieving the loss of its Jewish population. Her “enemy” welcomed her home and claimed her as one of their own.

They Were Promised the Sea is an intimate journey shot in Morocco, Israel-Palestine, and New York. Kathy's research into her family origins in Morocco unleashed a complex web of questions about dual identity, political opportunism, and the challenges faced by those torn between Homeland and Promised Land.
 
Kathy Wazana gives us unique access to a cast of characters that includes a Jewish advisor to the King of Morocco, the director of the only Jewish museum in the Arab world, a Muslim-Moroccan musician/jeweller who longs for the return of his Jewish friends from Israel, and a Moroccan-Israeli living in exile in New York, whose poetry is dedicated to Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish.
 
 
In Israel-Palestine we meet Moroccan Israelis who long to return. One will make the journey. With Shira Ohayon, education director of the Andalusian Orchestra of Israel, we travel to Morocco where belonging and homeland takes on a new and disturbing meaning.

The sounds of peace

The film’s haunting score consists of original recordings of Andalusian and Sephardic music, performed in Arabic, Hebrew and Ladino. In one memorable scene, a Rabbi and an Imam, backed by a Sufi orchestra, performing liturgical poetry to Andalusian music in Hebrew and Arabic, seamlessly moving from Adonai to Allah, and providing a breathtaking glimpse of the genuinely symbiotic relationship of Jewish and Muslim Arab cultural heritage. Here in Morocco, brotherhood has continued to exist between “enemies”. 

The importance of this film

They Were Promised the Sea reveals the intersections of identity, community and belonging within a complex political environment.  The film exposes the political maneuvering that separated communities that had lived together for thousands of years, and also gives voice to those who resisted and continue to resist the separation of Arab and Jew.

Every scene and encounter, every witness, reminds us that there is another history of Jewish/Arab/Muslim coexistence -- a history suppressed because it doesn’t fit the narrative which claims that Jews were persecuted and expelled from their Arab homeland, and that 850,000 Arab Jews are refugees. 

About the filmmaker

Casablanca-born, Kathy Wazana is a Toronto-based writer and peace activist who has spearheaded joint Jewish-Arab-Palestinian community building initiatives, including the Playgrounds for Peace Fund, the Just Peace Seder and Mimouna, and a Palestinian and Jewish Canadian women's mission to Israel-Palestine. Wazana was ten years old when her family left Morocco, believing, like many Jews, that they were no longer safe in their Arab homeland. Returning to Morocco 35 years later, she was greeted with the words “welcome home.”
 

What we need and what you get

They were Promised the Sea is an independent production on a controversial topic, so we're relying on people like you to make it a reality. Your contribution will help to:

Screen and distribute They Were Promised the Sea, with a focus on screenings that provide opportunities for people to meet the filmmaker and engage in this important dialogue.

Raise awareness of the 2000-year history of peaceful Jewish-Arab coexistence, and of the reality that contrary to current political messaging, Arab Jews are not refugees.

Give voice to those who refuse the separation of Arab and Jew, and who hold the key to the possibility of a new Al Andalus.

Change the conversation about Jewish-Arab relations.

You can help make this happen. Please support this film today!

Find This Campaign On
$2,872USD
raised in 2 months
10% funded
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$30,000 USD goal
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This campaign ended on April 30, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Casablanca

    Thank you! We sincerely appreciate your support and will send you an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Casablanca.

    6 claimed
  • $30USD
    Essaouira

    An official poster of the film, and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Essaouira.

    1 claimed
  • $35USD
    Ighil Nogho

    A digital download of the film, and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Ighil Nogho.

    9 claimed
  • $60USD
    Agadir

    Digital download of the soundtrack with a unique blend of Andalusian, North African and Judeo-Arabic music. Plus an invitation to an after-party at a screening near you and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Agadir.

    1 claimed
  • $100USD
    Illigh

    All of the above. Plus an original "They Were Promised the Sea" T-shirt (English and Arabic script), and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Illigh.

    9 out of 100 claimed
  • $200USD
    New York

    All of the above. Plus a signed poster and DVD of the film, and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring New York.

    2 claimed
  • $300USD
    Musrara / Jerusalem

    All of the above. Plus a digital download of an extended soundtrack featuring live recordings of Judeo-Arabic music not in the film, and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Musrara.

    0 claimed
  • $500USD
    Yaffa / Tel Aviv

    All of the above. Plus a private screening and conversation with the director (available in Toronto, Montreal, New York and Seattle; other cities with travel and accommodation). Plus a special credit in the film and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Yaffa.

    1 out of 8 claimed
  • $1,000USD
    Tanger

    All of above. Plus a signed, limited edition photographic print from the film, and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Tangiers

    0 out of 6 claimed
  • $2,000USD
    Essaouira

    A Sephardic Moroccan diffa! An authentic Moroccan feast for up to 10 people, prepared for you by filmmaker Kathy Wazana, who is also founder of “Cooks for Peace” and the celebrated “Just Peace Seder.” Plus, of course, all of the above and an original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcard featuring Essaouira.

    0 claimed
  • $5,000USD
    Fès

    A credit as Associate Producer of "They Were Promised the Sea" / "Pour une Nouvelle Séville" / "Al Andalus Jedida", Plus film and music package and a series of original "They Were Promised the Sea" postcards.

    0 claimed
  • $10,000USD
    Al Andalus

    Experience The Spirit of Fès and The Magic of Essaouira! As a Patron, you will be a Special Guest of filmmaker Kathy Wazana at the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music, and in the legendary seaside city of Essaouira. Invitation is inclusive of airfare from major hubs, accommodation in the most beautiful riads of Fès and Essaouira, meals, and VIP seating at all events. (Featured in National Geographic: http://tinyurl.com/bdqjp5o)

    0 out of 3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
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