April 14, 2008

Dear all,

Let us apologize! We haven’t given news for a while and the simple and reassuring reason is that our production has recently intensified a lot. For two months we did some research and made our brain work hard, and we finally came up with a dense shooting schedule for April with very little space for blogging.

To make up to you we have edited a short video from the footage we just shot in the Konkan region, where the Bene Israel settled 2000 years ago, and especially in the small city of Alibag.

We interviewed there the community hazzan, Jacob Dandekar, a tiny, 76-year-old man who prays alone, three times a day. As a matter of fact, there are only five Bene Israel families left in Alibag, and they only come to the synagogue for the High Holidays. It is puzzling to witness such a situation. On one hand this survival of Jewish rituals in a very remote corner of India is magnificent, but on the other hand the loneliness of this old man who has no one to wish “Shabbat shalom” on Saturdays is heartbreaking. We asked Mr. Dandekar to guide us through the Navgaon cemetery, where the descendants of the Bene Israel are supposed to have landed. It was a great opportunity to go through the community’s early days, and this whole scene will be integrated to the beginning of our film to bring a historical depth.

Here is an extract of this scene. This was edited in our room in Mumbai, it is therefore not the final cut.

We also interviewed Levi Wakrulkar, the owner of an ice cream shop located on a street named Israel Lane because many Jewish families used to live there until the end of the 20th century. He went through the more recent history of Alibag, where his family has been settled for seven generations, and the mass emigration to Israel in 50’s and 60’s. As of today, his 15-year-old son Adiel is the youngest Jew of the entire region.

While we want to go back to Alibag once more, the rest of our shooting will take place in Bombay. We will keep following our main characters, Sharon and Sharona Galsulkar, and Natasha Joseph. During these four week we will film them evolving in diverse situations and interactions: at work, at home, with their families, their friends, in the streets of Bombay, at the synagogue, during Pessah, for Yom Hashoah, etc.

We got interested in these people because all of them have been involved in their community, with the hope of improving its situation. But out of this common ground they have taken singular journeys. While Sharon and Sharona follow Jewish orthodox practices, Natasha doesn’t believe in prayers. They also don’t have the same relation to India and Israel. Last but not least, Sharon and Sharona are the parents of two young daughters and have to make their plans accordingly, whereas Natasha is only on the doorway of her adult life.

If time allows us, we will try to publish a last post from Bombay; but if the shooting happens to be too intense we must ask you to be patient and wait for our return to France in early May.

Before going let us share with you our experience of the Hindu festivals Holi and Rang Panchami, which celebrate the first day of Spring. During this life rebirth onto the ashes of winter && which is definitely not something even close to the grey desert of naked trees one can find in Europe && Indians make gigantic campfires in the streets when night comes. The next day, for Rang Panchami, they interrupt the whole nation’s activity and dedicate themselves to a huge, collective water and colors battle! In Bombay, Savitri invited us to her house where we “fought” her neighbors from the upper floor with multicolor pigments and water buckets, in shared hilarity.

Walking along these streets and seeing all these people proudly showing their painted bodies with a bright smile on their faces was an eye and soul cheering experience. Being in a global world, we should definitely start thinking of importing this fantastic way of celebrating the life cycle renewal.