A lyrical, musical, polemical road movie, THEY WERE PROMISED THE SEA is an intimate journey shot in Morocco, Israel and Palestine, and New York. The film exposes the political maneuvering that separated communities that had lived together for thousands of years, and also gives voice to those who resisted and continue to resist the separation of Arab and Jew.
Writer and filmmaker Kathy Wazana’s research into her family origins in Morocco unleashed a complex web of questions about Arab-Jewish dual identity, political opportunism, and the challenges faced by those torn between concepts of a Homeland and a Promised Land. Wazana gives unique access to a cast of characters that includes a Jewish advisor to the King of Morocco; the director of the only Jewish museum in the Arab world; a Muslim-Moroccan musician and jeweler who longs for the return of his Jewish friends from Israel; and a Moroccan-Israeli living in exile in New York, whose poetry is dedicated to the beloved Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish.
In Morocco, brotherhood has continued to exist between supposed “enemies”. Every scene and encounter, every witness, reminds us that there is another history of Jewish/Arab/Muslim coexistence—a history suppressed because it doesn’t fit the narrative which claims that Jews were persecuted and expelled from their Arab homeland, and that 850,000 Arab Jews are refugees. The film’s haunting score consists of original recordings of Andalusian and Sephardic music, performed in Arabic, Hebrew and the endangered Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino. In one memorable scene, a Rabbi and an Imam, backed by a Sufi orchestra, perform liturgical poetry to Andalusian music in Hebrew and Arabic—seamlessly moving from Adonai to Allah, and providing a breathtaking glimpse of the genuinely symbiotic relationship of Jewish and Muslim Arab cultural heritage.
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