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Albert Memmi, Sasson Gabay, Lisa Azuelos, Maxime Karoutchi and more at star-studded 22nd NY Sephardi

NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival 2019

Albert Memmi, Sasson Gabay, Lisa Azuelos, Maxime Karoutchi and more at star-studded 22nd NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival 6-20 March 2019

The New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (NYSJFF) announces its action-packed program featuring 12 NY US, and World première films, 10 special appearances by filmmakers, and 6 Pomegranate Awards recognizing Sephardi excellence in the arts. This special celebration of the diversity of Jewish experiences features narratives and documentaries, comedies and critical perspectives, with films touching on communities in Morocco, France, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Syria, and Iraq.

« For the 22nd Anniversary Edition, we are delighted to share a number of NY and US premieres with our audience, including a number of firsts for us: Our first Master Class with director David Deri (THE ANCESTRAL SIN, NYSJFF 2018 and LABOR, REBELLION, UPHEAVAL, NYSJFF 2019); and our first series premiere, STOCKHOLM, starring the phenomenal actor Sasson Gabay (THE BAND'S VISIT, NYSJFF 2017)," said Sara Nodjoumi, Artistic Director of the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.

"We have included a focus on French cinema, where the greatest population of Sephardim live outside of Israel, and have dedicated a day for films that explore Sephardi politics in Israel. From enigmatic Yemenite poets to lost medieval documents in Cairo to SEX AND THE CITY Sephardi-style, our program truly has something for everyone this year. We also have a longer festival and record number of filmmakers in attendance for Q&A's, including Lisa Azuelos (COMME T'Y ES BELLE!) & Alexandre Amiel (WHY DO THEY HATE US?) from France, Michele Paymar (FROM CAIRO TO THE CLOUD) from Canada, and Eliran Malka (THE UNORTHODOX) from Israel," Nodjoumi added.

NYSJFF Artistic Director Sara Nodjoumi produced THE IRAN JOB (Shortlisted German Academy Award, 2014) and WHEN GOD SLEEPS (Passion for Freedom Gold Award Winner, 2018), which was recently shown nationally on PBS, and is a programming alumna of the Tribeca Film Festival.

"We are proud to present a record number of premiere films that speak to the beauty, complexity, and diversity of the Jewish experience. New Yorkers looking for a rich and exciting array of Jewish films should join us for 22nd NYSJFF," said Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation. He added: "Sara Nodjoumi is to be commended for year after year building on the storied history and successes of the NYSJFF to create ever-more compelling programs. Her emphasis on quality films has elevated the Festival, as is evident from this year's exceptional line-up."

Returning as the NYSJFF's Producer is French-Moroccan Sephardi opera singer, David Serero who previously created and starred in the ASF's successful theatrical seasons (Merchant of Venice, Cyrano de Bergerac, Don Giovanni, Othello, and Nabucco), 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. Andre 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, featuring such world-renowned talents as Yemen Blues, Francois Atlan, Gerard Edery, and Itamar Borochov. "David Serero's wide-ranging talents and unceasing passion for the ASF's mission translate promise to possibility to reality. David went all out this year to bring movie and Broadway star Sasson Gabay to the NYSJFF and French filmmaker Lisa Azuelos, Maxime Karoutchi with whom he recently performed in Morocco, and to highlight the French-Sephardi experience with the US premiere of LES MAGNIFIQUES, a film featuring ASF Pomegranate Award recipient Enrico Macias!,” said Mr. Guberman.

The NYSJFF's Outreach and Development Director, Yves Seban, was instrumental in connecting with literary legend and Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement recipient Albert Memmi, and has created RUE ALBERT MEMMI, an exclusive video message for Opening Night.

Appearing in person: Moroccan star and Pomegranate Award recipient Maxime Karoutchi on Opening Night (March 6th), Ronit Elkabetz A"H Pomegranate Award recipient Sasson Gabai (March 11th); and Pomegranate Award recipient Lisa Azuelos (March 18th and 20th).

All films and events are taking place at the Center for Jewish History located at 15 West 16th Street. The world première of TU BOCA EN LOS CIELOS "Your Wishes in Heaven" 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

Wednesday March 6th 2019 at 6:30pm - “Moroccan Opening Night & Pomegranate Awards Ceremony”

A sumptuous and star-studded celebration of Sephardi films and excellence in the arts. Featuring the Pomegranate Awards Ceremony, a Moroccan reception, and a musical performance by Moroccan star and 2019 Pomegranate Award recipient Maxime Karoutchi. All the Pomegranate Awards are hand-sculpted by Iraqi born artist Oded Halahmy.

Oded Halahmy was born in Iraq, moved with his family to Israel in the 50’s, was educated at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, and taught sculpture at the Ontario College of Art before moving to New York City in the early 70’s. His sculptures are in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, as well as many other public and private collections worldwide, He currently lives in New York City and Old Jaffa, Israel. Through the Pomegranate Gallery, which exhibits contemporary Iraqi art, the Oded Halahmy Foundation for the Arts showcases original artistic expressions in Middle Eastern literature, poetry, art, dance, music and film, thereby fostering a dialogue of peace.

“Round and full, pomegranates are an ancient and universal symbol of beauty, love and marriage, fertility, prosperity, hope, life and rebirth. Their seeds, rich, abundant and tightly compacted, are revered as the holy secret of unity. They promise generous futures and I sculpted this aluminum pomegranate to wish love and prosperity to all. Congratulations to all the ASF’s Pomegranate Award winners. It was sculpted with love, and is given with love.” Oded Halahmy, The Pomegranate Gallery

Albert Memmi, this year’s Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement recipient will appear via a video, RUE ALBERT MEMMI, recorded in his Paris home by the ASF.

The evening will also feature the NY Première of El Hara, a cinematic journey of the Hara (former Jewish Quarter of Tunis, Tunisia) today, punctuated by an exclusive interview with Albert Memmi and readings of his lyrical prose, directed by Margaux Fitoussi & Mo Scarpelli.


Directed by Margaux Fitoussi & Mo Scarpelli

USA/Tunisia, 15min, Short Documentary, NY Premiere

French & Arabic w/ English subtitles

How do the fortresses we build to protect ourselves affect the people we become? Through a cinematic journey of the Hara today, punctuated by an exclusive interview with Albert Memmi and readings of his lyrical prose, EL HARA explores how the places we come from shape who we become.

Thursday March 7th 2019 - “French Focus”

5:00 PM


Directed by: Yves Azeroual and Mathieu Alterman

Produced by Alexandre Amiel

U.S. Premiere

France, 2018, 52 min, Documentary, International Premiere, French with English subtitles

With: Enrico Macias, Norbert Saada, Philippe Clair, Régis Talar and Robert Castel

Arriving in France from North Africa with barely a suitcase in hand, these Sephardic immigrants and refugees became the stars and legends of French show-business: Recording-artist Enrico Macias, comedians Robert Castel & Lucette Sahuquet, impresario Regis Talar, actor, director, producer and screenwriter Philippe Clair (a/k/a Prosper Bensoussan!), and, the youngest of the lot, Norbert Saada. Starting from nothing they became: Les Magnifiques! With: Enrico Macias, Norbert Saada, Philippe Clair, Régis Talar, and Robert Castel.

Followed by Q&A with Director Yves Azeroual & Producer & Pomegranate Award winner, Alexandre Amiel

7:00 PM


Directed by: Alexandre Amiel

France, 2017, 100 min, Documentary, US premiere

In French with English Subtitles

Alexandre Amiel, a French-Moroccan Sephardi filmmaker and veteran reporter, produced a trilogy of documentaries exploring hatred from the perspectives of its primary victims in French society by profiling three representatives: himself, Amelle Chahbi (a comedienne of Moroccan descent), and Lucien Jean-Baptiste (an actor and director who was born in the Caribbean). This critical and poignant trilogy has been shown all over the world, but here in its entirety, for the first time, in the U.S.

Followed by Q&A with Director & 2019 Pomegranate Award winner, Alexandre Amiel.

Saturday March 9th 2019 - “YemeNight”

8:00 PM


Directed by Israela Sha’ar Meoded

Israel, 2018, 55 minutes, Documentary, NY Premiere,

In Hebrew & Arabic, with English subtitles

How does Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, a 17th century Judeo-Arabic rabbinical poet in Yemen, get remixed by Madonna? Who was this Mori (spiritual leader)? While his oeuvre contains over 800 poems, only four biographical details are known. Director and ISEF scholarship recipient Israela Sha’ar Meoded embarks on a playful and imaginative journey in the footsteps of the greatest Yemenite poet, who, 400 years after his birth, is still read and beloved.

Sunday March 10 - “Egyptian Secrets”

7:30 PM


Canada, 2018, 92 min, Documentary, NY Premiere

In 1896, Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge University Professor, came upon an extraordinary discovery inside a rundown Cairo synagogue: a vast room containing sacred ancient religious texts, manuscripts, and letters. Paymar’s documentary deftly details this amazing treasure trove, which includes handwritten documents by the influential physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides, as well as more commonplace correspondence and lists that reveal the ebb and flow of life in medieval Egypt during a period when Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities coexisted.

Presented in partnership with the Muslim American Leadership Alliance.

Followed by Q&A with Director Michelle Paymar and special guests.

Monday March 11th 2019 – Noble Intentions : Honoring SASSON GABAY

7:00 PM


Directed by Daniel Syrkin

Israel, 2018, 90 min, TV series, U.S. Premiere

In Hebrew with English Subtitles

When a renowned economist is found dead in his bed, his friends decide to hide his death for five days, enough time to allow him to win the coveted Nobel Prize in Economics. Determined to retain some integrity for their friend, while also gaining, by proxy, some notoriety for themselves, the plan threatens to unravel in a nail-biting, hysterical, thoughtful, not-to-be missed popular series with an all-star cast: Sasson Gabay (THE BAND’S VISIT), Doval’e Glickman, Gidi Gov, and Tikva Dayan.

Followed by Q&A with Sasson Gabay, 2019 Ronit Elkabetz A”H Pomegranate Award recipient.

Wednesday March 13th 2019 @ INSTITUTO CERVANTES - “Spanish Memories”

7:00 PM


Directed by Miguel Ángel Nieto Solís

Spain, 2019, 56 min, Documentary, International Premiere

In Spanish with English subtitles

Rachey Muyal, an 87-year-old descendant of Sephardim expelled from Spain in 1492 delivers a handwritten letter to the tombs of Catholic Monarchs at Granada. The letter takes us on a delightful journey covering 500 years of coexistence enjoyed by the Jews in the lands of the Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia, & Algeria). With this touching film, Director Miguel Ángel Nieto Solís reminds us that we’re all capable of forgiveness.

Followed by Q&A with Director Miguel Ángel Nieto Solís @ Instituto Cervantes

* The Instituto Cervantes is located at 211 E 49th St, New York, NY 10017

Thursday March 14th 2019 - “GAD ELMALEH Celebration”

7:00 PM


Directed by & starring Gad Elmaleh

France, 2009, 105 min, French with English Subtitles

Coco, a 40-year old immigrant who started with nothing, is the perfect Sephardi success story. As his son Samuel’s bar mitzvah nears, he plans a spectacular party with 2,000 guests. But as he becomes overly involved in the preparations that include stadiums and large-scale concerts, he fails to see that his family is slowly drifting apart. COCO, based on a character sketch he created for his one-man show, “La Vie Normale,” is Gad Elmaleh at his best.

Followed by a Moroccan Costumed After Party including food, drinks, and Moroccan Entertainment: DJ & Belly Dancers.

Saturday March 16th 2019 – "A Syrian Sephardi Thriller"

9:00 PM


Directed by Avi Dabach

Israel, 2018, 65 min, English and Hebrew with English subtitles

The Aleppo Codex, aka The Crown, is considered the most accurate and valuable edition of the Hebrew Bible. After being safeguarded for seven centuries by the Syrian Sephardic community of Aleppo, more than a third of its pages disappeared when it was smuggled to Israel in 1957. As Avi Dabach, the filmmaker and great-grandson of the Crown Keeper navigates the dark corridors of hidden history, archival documents and rare testimonies reveal an astonishing story involving an Israeli president, Mossad agents, passionate rabbis, and antique dealers.

Sunday March 17th 2019 - “Sephardi Politics in Israel”

2:00 PM


Directed by Michael Alalu

Israel, 2016, 63 min, Documentary, NY Premiere, Hebrew with English subtitles

After decades of political struggles, Pepe Alalu, the leader of the left party in Jerusalem decides to run for mayor of the Holy City. Although it’s a slim shot, Pepe believes in presenting the public with an alternative. Michael, his son and the movie’s director joins him and together they embark on a Don Quixote Sancho Panza battle against the powerful windmills of the most complicated city in the whole world—Jerusalem.

4:00 PM


Directed by David Deri, Ruth Yuval and Doron Glaezer

Israel, 2018, 50 min, Documentary, US Premiere, Hebrew with English subtitles

From the Creators of the electrifying documentary, THE ANCESTRAL SIN (NYSJFF 2018), comes a controversial new film [As part of the documentary series] about immigrant children from North Africa who are placed in vocational schools in periphery towns in Israel. While the systematic policy was meant to keep newcomers from Asia and Africa at the bottom of the social strata, the second generation created a grassroots movement for social and economic justice, ultimately rejecting exclusion and neglect.

Followed by Q&A with Director David Deri.



Directed by Eliran Malka

Israeli, 2018, 92 min, Narrative, NY premiere, In Hebrew with English subtitles

Eliran Malka’s directing debut is a dramatic underdog story filled with comedic relief. This close-to-reality account of the founding of Shas, the Sephardi Haredi political party, has been an audience favorite everywhere it goes. Exposing the injustice and discrimination that Shas sought to challenge, its first successes in the early 1980s, its ultimate achievement in winning 17 of the 120 Knesset seats in 1999, followed by the in-fighting and corruption behind the scenes. Fun, funny and poignant & not to be missed.

Presented as Festival Centerpiece. Followed by Q&A with director Eliran Malka.

Monday March 18th 2019

4:00 PM

Master Class with David Deri

Q&A and discussion

Meet the Israeli director behind the documentaries everyone has been talking about in Israel: LABOUR, REBELLION, UPHEAVAL (NYSJFF 2019) and THE ANCESTRAL SIN (NYSJFF 2018). Deri, an alumnus of ISEF, will introduce clips of his films and discuss his groundbreaking documentaries.

“Sephardi Women in Front of and Behind the Camera”

7:00 PM


Directed by Lisa Azuelos

France, 2006, 85 min, In French with English subtitles

Like SEX AND THE CITY but way better because it’s French Sephardi! This box office hit and second feature from Sephardi filmmaker Lisa Azuelos, is a perfectly directed romantic comedy about four women juggling love, parenthood, new relationships, and their professional careers. An absolute crowd-pleaser.

Followed by Q&A with Director and 2019 Pomegranate Award Winner Lisa Azuelos.

Wednesday March 20th 2019 - “Iraqi Closing Night”

Pomegranate Award Presentation to Filmmaker LISA AZUELOS .

7:00 PM


Directed by Adam Baroukh

US, 2018, 13 min, Short Narrative

In Arabic and English with English subtitles

Director Adam Baroukh makes you beam with pride—and cringe with discomfort at the same time—in this dead-on short comedy about the insular family ties of a typical Iraqi-Jewish community.


Directed by Levi Zini and Kobi Farag

Israel, 2017, 77 min, Documentary, NY Premiere

A riveting documentary, Photo Faraj recounts the tale of ten siblings from Iraq who immigrated to Israel and revolutionized photography. Faraj Bilbul started photographing in Baghdad when he was nine years old and continued after he immigrated with his family to Israel. The brothers opened the largest chain of photography studios in the country. Using rare archival footage, nephew Kobi Faraj tastefully embarks on a journey to solve the riddle that is his family.

Pomegranate Award Presentation to Director Lisa Azuelos

Post-screening Iraqi-style Megillah Reading

Closing Night Reception and Purim Party


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, the Institute of Jewish Experience, and the National Sephardic Library & Archives, as well as 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.

Please visit us at


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