IDFA Review: Ziyara

By the end of World War II, there had been a Jewish community in Morocco for over two thousand years. Their numbers peaked around 1948 when there were roughly 250,000 living in the North African country. With political turmoil, the prospect of independence and the creation of the State of Israel, the following years and decades saw an exodus across the seas. Today, this number has dwindled to a couple of thousand.

However, unlike many other Muslim countries, Morocco has embraced its Jewish heritage. Indeed, many synagogues have been restored and cemeteries well-tended by the locals. The country also hosts the only Jewish museum in the Arab world. Every year, tens of thousands of Jews make the pilgrimage to the Maghreb to seek out and pay their respects to ancestors long passed. Director Simone Bitton returns to her homeland and documents the experience in Ziyara.

Ziyara, which means a pilgrimage to a sacred place, charts her journey across the country, speaking to Moroccans as she travels through towns and villages; searching for remnants of the past. She discovers a great respect for the former community and from Muslims towards Judaism. Without the issues caused by politics and neighbourly disputes, both ancient religions can live in harmony. Ziyara is a very personal odyssey.

Ziyara screened at IDFA.

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