'Jews of Egypt' Rides Bumpy Road to Premiere

After Ban, Authorities Allow Screening of Controversial Film

Back Down: After Egypt tried to ban ‘Jews of Egypt,’ filmmaker Amir Ramses planned to sue — and project the film on the side of the country’s internal spy agency. That turned out to be unnecessary when authorities backed down and allowed screenings to go ahead.
courtesy of jews of egypt
Back Down: After Egypt tried to ban ‘Jews of Egypt,’ filmmaker Amir Ramses planned to sue — and project the film on the side of the country’s internal spy agency. That turned out to be unnecessary when authorities backed down and allowed screenings to go ahead.

By Aaron Ross

Published March 28, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

According to Ahram Online, the separately edited English language outlet of Egypt’s semi-official newspaper Al Ahram, the first news of a problem with the film came just two days before its initial opening date, during a meeting between Al Khamissi and Egyptian censorship committee director Abd El-Satar Fathi.

The film producer requested the work file for his film, the news outlet reported, and when the censorship official obtained it, he found a note in the file from national security officials forbidding the film’s screening “because it is a documentary.”

Fathi was quoted in Ahram Online saying that he himself “supported the film all along.” When he contacted national security to ask for details, he was told that “the film’s title might cause public uproar… in light of the tension on the street,” Ahram Online reported.

Yet at the film’s October preview, the only uproar came from Egyptians clamoring to get in. The packed audience included at least one prominent Egyptian politician, scores of older Egyptians who recalled living alongside Jewish neighbors and younger Egyptians curious about the history of Egypt’s Jews. Organizers had to scramble to arrange a second screening later that evening to accommodate everyone who showed up.

The audience viewed a film that features interviews with Jews who were forced to leave their homeland in the 1940s and 50s. About 80,000 Jews lived in Egypt before this exodus. Those interviewed recalled a cosmopolitan, tolerant country until frictions stemming from Israel’s founding and ensuing conflicts between the two nations led to waves of expulsions. Today, Egypt’s Jewish population is believed to number a couple hundred at most.

Despite its controversial (for Egypt) subject matter, the film steers well clear of anything overtly political. In an interview with the Forward the day after the film’s preview at the October film festival, Ramses said that his goal was to distinguish Judaism from Zionism. He argued that the conflation of the two has spawned much of the anti-Semitism prevalent in Egyptian society.

Since the Cairo festival, the film has been screened at festivals in Rotterdam and Palm Springs as well as before critics in Cairo.

For months now, Egyptian artists and journalists have complained about a crackdown on free expression by the government of President Mohamed Morsi, who was a longtime senior official of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, before his election in 2012.

Under the current regime, prominent actors and writers have been charged with defaming Islam. Media outlets critical of the government have also been targeted. Free speech advocates have warned that Egypt’s new constitution, ratified in December, undermines core freedoms.

In his October interview with the Forward, Ramses called censorship under Morsi’s democratically-elected government even more restrictive than under Mubarak. Now, he sees the aborted crackdown on his own film as an indication of just how blatant the suppression of certain artistic forms has become.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.