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SJFF: ALEGRÍA (Virtual)
March 20 - March 26
The North African city of Melilla—where Jews, Muslims, and Christians converge—is the unique backdrop for this moving, comedic family drama where Alegría must face her Jewish family and rejected heritage during her niece’s Orthodox wedding.
Showing with short film SONGS OF THE SEPHARDIM IN IZMIR.
In-Person Showtime: March 12 | AMC | 1 pm • Streaming Window: March 20-26
More on ALEGRÍA
Violeta Salama | Narrative Comedy/Drama | Spain | 2021 | Spanish, Chelja w/English subtitles | 104m | PG
A moving, layered, and amusing drama about a woman breaking free from patriarchal tradition in a Sephardic Jewish diasporic community. Set in contemporary Melilla, an autonomous, multicultural Spanish city on Africa’s north coast where Jews, Muslims, and Christians converge, Alegría (Cecilia Suárez) is a single mother who has returned to her hometown from Mexico for her niece Yael’s Orthodox Jewish wedding. When she learns that her family is going to stay with her, life gets messy. Alegría doesn’t acknowledge her Jewish heritage. Luckily, the women in her orbit, including a Muslim Moroccan girl who works for her, are there to help. Violeta Salama’s feature film debut sensitively depicts Alegría coming to terms with her roots and the cultural past she rejected—including a daughter living in Israel—as she struggles to reconnect with family and friends. Suárez’s standout performance is as riveting as the gorgeous evocation of a fascinating and beautiful corner of the world not often seen onscreen. ALEGRÍA is a luminous and surprising story that draws from the director’s own experiences growing up in Melilla. It plays as an homage to a city whose vivid contrasts and blended culture perfectly reflect the contour of her characters’ interconnected dramas.
Violeta Salama holds a degree in audiovisual communication from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a master’s degree in creative documentary from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. She moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 2007 to pursue a post-graduate degree in film production at the Vancouver Film School. There she began working in second production units, such as “The L Word” and “Smallville.” In 2009, she returned to Madrid to work in television then transitioned to cinema, assistant directing, and script supervising with some of Spain’s top talent. ALEGRÍA is her debut film as a director. Official bio on IMDB.
Prof. Canan Bolel is a historian of the Ottoman Empire’s Jewish communities. Her first book project, “Constructions of Jewish Modernity and Marginality in Izmir, 1860–1907” focuses how marginalized Sephardic Jews constituted their identities. Her current focus is on the languages and literatures of Sephardic Jews during the Early Turkish Republic.
Short Film: SONGS OF THE SEPHARDIM IN IZMIR
Brooke Saias, Anna Clare Spelman | Short Documentary | Turkey | 2022 | English and Turkish, Ladino w/Engish subtitles | 16m
In Izmir, an ancient Turkish city rich with religious history and culture, Ceni grew up hearing Ladino at home, but the language wasn’t passed down. Through music and song, Ceni finds a deep connection with her heritage and works to preserve Ladino—the endangered language of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain—for future generations.
Maureen and Joel Benoliel
Celeste and David Rind, in memory of Bernice Rind z”l
Catering Sponsors: Dancing Goats Coffee, Sholom Tea
- Seattle Sephardic Network
- Sephardic Studies Program of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington
- Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Washington
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