Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More) Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More)

Review: Amir Ramses' Doc 'Jews of Egypt' Gives In-Depth Look At Complex History

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act April 2, 2014 at 3:27PM

When I watched Amir Ramses' documentary Jews of Egypt, I thought about my father, and the ways that cultural and religious specificity can become subsumed by an overwhelming homogenization.
0
Jews Of Egypt

After the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, many Muslims were viewed with overwhelming suspicion. My father, an African American Muslim from Louisiana, went to the airport in a Kufi cap and was met with disapproving glances. Though he was worlds away from the “terrorists” reported on in the news, “Islam” had become one category. When I watched Amir Ramses' documentary Jews of Egypt, I thought about my father, and the ways that cultural and religious specificity can become subsumed by an overwhelming homogenization.

The stories in the film are ones we’ve heard before; where all Muslims become terrorists, and all Japanese become spies and bombers. In this documentary, Ramses explores the uneven conflation of Judaism with Zionism and Israel, a sweeping association that disrupted years of coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Egypt during the first half of the 20th century.

Though the structure is mostly presentational with back-to-back talking heads and archival photos, there are gems of information that give complex insight into intercultural and interreligious unity among Jews and Arabs in Egypt prior to the formation of Israel and the Zionist movement. However, once that movement got under way, Egyptian Jews were linked to it, though many had no real ties.

Egyptian Jewish Interviewees observed multiple holidays, from Ramadan to Christmas, had friends of various backgrounds, and coexisted in the country without the need to prove they were Egyptian. This fluidity of existence is engaging in light of the recent tensions in the region, and shows how potent and harmful fundamentalism can be in staining all areas of a culture or religion to the point where regional differences and specificity no longer matter.

The most fascinating content comes in the testimonies of the Egyptian Jews, and in their unique space in the Jewish Diaspora. Over decades, Egyptian Jews built foundations of affluence and economic infrastructure in Egypt, contributing greatly to Egyptian film, music, and art. In the film, many speak of their expulsion from Egypt, but instead of finding refuge in the newly formed Israel, they settled in other countries. According to one interviewee: “Israel was a country for oppressed Jews, which was the opposite of Egyptian Jews.” This one statement situates their struggle- associated with the violence and ideology of a “homeland” they didn’t identify with, while being pushed out of the only home they’d known.

These stories of banishment are underscored by ones of undeniable patriotism by Egyptian Jews to Egypt, even in the face of persecution. One interviewee fought for Egypt when the country was attacked by Israel in 1967, while another important figure, Henri Curiel, founded an Egyptian communist organization before being pushed out of the country. While the constant interviews become exhausting, Ramses structures them in ways that reveal interesting linkages and connections between his subjects.

A documentary like this is important at a time when we are encouraged to adhere to binaries of gender, religion, and culture on a daily basis- to take an “either/or” stance on people and human rights issues. There’s always a gray area, or people, in between the rhetoric, and this documentary does a nice job of giving them a voice.

Jews of Egypt is currently playing at Quad Cinema in New York City, where it is being held over for a second week. 


Shadow & ActNewsletter