Elderly Jewish woman living in Jaffa with her married daughter remembers her childhood in Morocco. Poignant dramedy seasoned with a dash of magical realism. Written and directed by beloved Israeli actress Hanna Azoulay Hasfari. Hebrew Title = Anashim Ketumim (JLH: 4/5)
2015 Sephardi Film Festival: Spotlight Morocco
A poignant journey contrasting the lives of four generations of Jewish women through space and time from rural Morocco to urban Israel.
Zohara is barely a teenager when her mother marries her off to a much older man who immediately impregnates her. But when the baby arrives and he sees it is a girl, Zohara’s husband divorces her and she flees… leaving the infant in the arms of her mother (played by Majda Aznag).
Decades pass and “Zohara” (now played by Rita Shukron) is living in Jaffa with her daughter “Simone” (Esty Yerushalmy), Simone’s husband “Jackie” (Yoram Toledano), and Simone’s daughter “Zohar” (Meytal Gal Suissa). In the interim, Zohara has developed magic powers as a “dreamer.” Give her a piece of clothing–preferably intimate clothing worn close to the skin like a bra or panties–and Zohara will predict your future. She also makes potent batches of couscous sprinkled with finely ground gold dust.
But suddenly Zohara’s dreams start turning inward and when she looks at the wall, she sees her shadow shrinking. Feeling death imminent, she tries to convince Simone to follow in her footsteps as a dreamer. Will Simone obey, or will she run from her own mother’s demands just as Zohara once did?
Beloved Israeli actress Hanna Azoulay Hasfari makes her behind-the-scenes debut as writer/director, and also co-stars as the mysteriously seductive “Fanny.”
Hasfari artfully depicts old and new, powerfully contrasting Zohara’s options as a girl with the life options of Simone’s Israeli-born daughter Zohar (which could hardly be more different).
Humorous street scenes set in Simone’s restaurant (where Simone serves ubiquitous Israeli schnitzel) are counterpointed with sensuous scenes of Simone and Fanny cooking together (as Fanny subversively urges Simone to start offering gourmet fare like Osso Bucco).
Seasoned with a dash of magical realism, this historically-wrenching dramedy is served up as a savory cinematic stew!
Top Photo: Rita Shukron (bottom left in turquoise) as “Zohara” surrounded by her family. Clockwise from top left: Esty Yerushalmy as “Simone,” Yoram Toledano as “Jackie,” and Meytal Gal Suissa as “Zohar.”
Bottom Photo: Actress/Filmmaker Hanna Azoulay Hasfari (left) as “Fanny” with Meytal Gal Suissa as “Zohar.”
Photo Credits: Green Productions (Israel)
Although Simone’s husband “Jackie” is an important character, he has very little control over Simone and must await her decision as to their future.
All of the critical conversations in Orange People are woman-to-woman, and these conversations are always about options, they are never about men. The relationship Zohara has with Zohar is particularly touching, echoing Holocaust films like Pesya’s Necklace in which grandparents who have kept secrets from their children for decades are finally able to confide in their grandchildren.
BONUS: Where does this film take place?
The family home–where Zohara’s customers come seeking her advice–is in Yafo (aka Jaffa) on the southern tip of Metro Tel Aviv. Simone’s restaurant is in Bat Yam (which is the town just south of Jaffa). At one point, Jackie and Fanny also travel to Ashdod, which is the large port city to the south which absorbed many Jews from Morocco when they first arrived in Israel.
Jewish immigration from Morocco to Israel (which began as a trickle after Israel became a nation in 1948) intensified in 1956 when Nasser visited Morocco after the Suez Crisis and peaked immediately after the Six Day War in 1967. The Jewish population of Morocco–which was once estimated at 250,000–is now estimated at under 5,000. According to the producers, the scenes set in rural Morocco were actually filmed in Morocco.