Jewish Film Festival Held in Madrid on 500th Anniversary of the Expulsion

The Jewish Film Festival, a tradition begun in 1981 in San Francisco and mounted in Moscow in 1990, was being held this week in Madrid to coincide with commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.

Janis Plotkin and Deborah Kaufman, the festival’s directors, brought 24 films from nine different countries, most made by independent filmmakers and never been screened in Spain.

Films featured on the opening day last Saturday were an Argentine-West German co-production, "La Amiga" by Jeanine Meerapfel; the German "Fear Not, Jacob" from Romanian director Radu Gabrea; and "Joshua Then and Now" from Canadian director Ted Kotcheff, based on the Mordechai Richler story. All three showings were sold out.

During the weeklong festival, directors and producers of the films were available to answer questions from the audience. Plotkin said these films could raise Spaniards’ level of knowledge about Jews and Judaism and erase many stereotypes Spaniards hold about Jews.

"We want to bring a message of tolerance to Spain," said Plotkin, and "help people understand there is not one way to define who Jews are.

"This is important in this country, where for centuries there were no Jews and all that remained were classical references."

One-third of the films concentrate on Spain and Sephardic culture, history and life today. These include "El Santo Oficio" about the Spanish Inquisition, from Mexican Arturo Ripstein, and "The House on Chelouche Street" by Israeli-French filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi.

Another film being screened is Judy Montell’s "Forever Activists: Stories from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade," which is about those who fought in the Spanish Civil War against the fascist forces of Francisco Franco.

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