North Africa & the Metropole • 1h 39m
Directed by Simone Bitton • Documentary • 2021 • 99 minutes
Celebrated documentary filmmaker Simone Bitton (Ben Barka, Wall, Rachel) returns with her most personal film to date. Inviting viewers on a cinematic pilgrimage to her homeland of Morocco, Bitton explores her Jewish roots through the sphere of the Muslim guardians of the nation’s Jewish memory, centered around the tradition of "ziyara".
In the arid but beautiful landscape of rural Morocco, the country’s youngest citizens have largely never themselves coexisted alongside Jews, although their presence is still felt in symbols, old shrines, synagogues and cemeteries. Many Muslims still maintain and find beauty in these commodities, seeing them as a timeless connection to the word of God.
Throughout the film, Bitton investigates the tradition of ziyara itself, a shared tradition between both Muslims and Jews. Pilgrims take a few days off in order to visit the tombs of saints, not only pray but more importantly to commune with nature, celebrate outdoors, meet new people and exchange ideas. The film is Bitton’s opportunity to revisit her original identity through the eyes of maturity, rooted not in nostalgia, but in her willingness to tell the story of Jews and Muslims, as has been the consistent theme in her work for decades. And in revisiting Morocco and the "ziyara" tradition, Bitton finds a story of hope.
Bitton conducts intimate conversations not only with those old enough to remember sharing their land with Jews, but with a new generation of Morrocans inspired by their heritage. These deeply personal insights include everyday people and specialists, all of them modest and magnificent heroes in a relentless quest for modernity, dignity, and social justice.
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