2018 Pomegranate Award Honors Saïd Ben Saïd, the Franco-Tunisian Muslim Producer who took a Courageous Stand for Co-Existence Against Anti-Semitic Extremism
The American Sephardi Federation announced today that one of France’s leading producers, Tunis-born Saïd Ben Saïd of SBS Films, will receive the Pomegranate Award for Artistic Courage at the 21st NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival’s (NYSJFF) Opening Night on Monday, March 5th. The French Cultural Services, uniFrance, and Association Mimouna are serving as co-presenters of the evening.
Winner of both the prestigious César Award for Best Film and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Picture in 2017, Saïd Ben Saïd, according to Ion Cinema, “has risen to prominence with his carefully groomed crop of rule breaking auteurs,” including Brian De Palma (Passion), Paul Verhoeven (Elle), Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (A Castle in Italy), Phillippe Garrel (In the Shadow of Women), David Cronenberg (Maps to the Stars), Roman Polanski (Carnage), and Kleber Mendonça Filho (Aquarius).
“Saïd Ben Saïd is a courageous advocate for artistic freedom and co-existence at a critical time. Facing an onslaught of the intolerant, who demand boycotts in a desperate attempt to block bridge building, Saïd Ben Saïd ’s words and deeds are a provocative example of how to effectively counter such anti-Semitic extremism, as well as the creative power of art to connect diverse peoples,” says Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation, who is just returned from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization’s diplomatic mission to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Amman, and Jerusalem.
In 2017, Saïd Ben Saïd began producing Synonymous, a Paris-set film by Nadiv Lapid, “the most internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker in recent memory… and perhaps ever,” according to J. Hoberman, a Tablet Magazine columnist and former longtime Village Voice film critic. Ben Saïd also served on the jury of the Israeli Feature Competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
For these “crimes”—working with an Israeli director and judging films at a film festival in the Jewish State—Ben Saïd’s invitation to serve as presiding judge of Tunisia’s 28th Carthage Film Festival was rescinded. His response, published in Le Monde, thanked the organizers for “spar[ing] both myself and themselves a media lynching campaign. This regrettable incident put me in a situation where I found myself opposite people I had no desire to offend and reveals the current debate about a country whose name in Tunisia has become unutterable.”
Previous recipients of the Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement include André Azoulay, Senior Councillor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and founder of Essouira’s Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, Enrico Macias, the Algerian-born international recording superstar, and Erez Bitton, the award-winning Moroccan-born Israeli poet. The Pomegranate Award for Artistic Courage was previously presented to Ema Shah, the multi-talented Kuwaiti performer whose interfaith approach to music and civil society activism have made her one of the Middle East’s most courageous celebrities advancing Jewish-Arab relations.
In 2010, as part of an effort to bridge cultural divides in her homeland, Ema performed Dalida’s French and Hebrew rendition of Hava Nagila and songs by Enrico Macias at a two-day Kuwait University Alumni Club folk music concert. Rejecting demands that she censor the program and charges that performing in Hebrew is offensive and tantamount to treason, Ema, a member of The Kuwaiti Society for Human Rights, asserted her right to freedom of expression and defended the power of music to “connect people around the world and remove barriers created by extremists who oppose freedom, liberalism and democracy.” Returning to perform at last year’s NYSJFF, Ema sang an impromptu duet with Enrico Macias.
“The American Sephardi Federation is proud to be the first Jewish organization to honor Saïd Ben Saïd’s artistic and moral courage and express gratitude for his friendship. By recognizing Said with the Pomegranate Award sculpted by Baghdad-born artist Oded Halahmy, the ASF is continuing the tradition of tolerance exemplified by Sephardi pioneers of trade, diplomacy, and creativity throughout history,” continued Mr. Guberman.
Saïd Ben Saïd’s films have won hundreds of international awards, are regularly screened at the Venice, Berlin, and other world-class film festivals, and, since first appearing at the Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight in 2011, have been entered in the main competition each year (2013-2017) in recognition of his signature approach to “find coherence and unity in the defense of a cinema that is both demanding and accessible.”
In addition to the Pomegranate Award ceremony, the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival’s Opening Night will feature a kosher Moroccan reception and a special performance of Sebt Gnawa, the revival of the seldom summoned Moroccan-Jewish spirits, by Grammy-nominated Innov Gnawa with Sephardi-Israeli Jazz great Itamar Borochov.
The 21st NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival is dedicated to Ike, Molly, and Steven Elias. Opening Night is made possible by the generous support of Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan Tourism Office, Pomegranate Gallery, and The Slovin Foundation.
Reserve a VIP Festival Pass to Opening Night at https://asffilmfestival2018.bpt.me or by calling Brown Paper Tickets: 1.800.838.3006
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About The 21st NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival The NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival showcases contemporary voices steeped in the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities through NY premiere film screenings, intriguing stories, evocative documentaries, Q&As with filmmakers, the Pomegranate Awards (sculpted by renowned artist Oded Halahmy) Ceremony, and special guests. This year’s ten-day festival has film entries focused on Iraqi, Syrian, Mexican, Egyptian, Israeli, French, Tunisian, Ethiopian, and Greek communities. Each night of the Festival features a themed program honoring the rich and diverse communities ASF represents. For more information: www.nysephardifilmfestival.org
About The American Sephardi Federation
The American Sephardi Federation, a Partner of the landmark Center for Jewish History, proudly preserves and promotes the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities as an integral part of the Jewish experience. ASF hosts high-profile events and exhibitions, produces widely-read online (Sephardi World Weekly and Sephardi Ideas Monthly) and print (The Sephardi Report) publications, supports research, scholarship (see: ASF’s 2018 Broome & Allen Fellowship and Scholarship Recipients), and the National Sephardic Library & Archives, and represents the Sephardi voice in diplomatic and Jewish communal affairs as a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and World Jewish Congress.
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