A documentary on Egypt’s Jewish community won an award Sunday for “best documentary” at the Malmo film festival in Sweden.
The announcement was made by the director of the film, Amir Ramses, on his Twitter account late Sunday. The film is currently being screened in film festivals around the world, according to Ramses.
The “Jews of Egypt” follows the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the 20th century until they left in large numbers under duress in the 1950s. Ramses describes it as a documentary about the cosmopolitan Egypt in the early 20th century, asking, “how did the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies?”
The film is based on testimonies of researchers, political figures and exiled Egyptian Jews.
According to Ramses, the Egyptian delegation in Sweden faced protests by Islamist demonstrators who shouted slogans against the Egyptian army and the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi on July 3 in front of the festival’s movie theater last week. Ramses said the demonstrators belonged to “Salafi, Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas groups.” At some point, according to his account, his group was physically attacked and some feared for their safety, deciding ultimately to leave.
The others “decided that leaving will mean that we accept the terroristic [sic] threats and will give a false victory to the Brotherhood and it will become a rule that they can attack us at any international event and threaten us…and we decided to stay till the end under the concept of refusing to surrender to a terroristic [sic] threat,” wrote Ramses.
In Egypt, the film also had to contend with some difficulties earlier this year as authorities tried to ban its showing in local cinemas.
Egypt’s once thriving Jewish community largely left Egypt more than 60 years ago amid hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Estimates say about 65,000 Jews left Egypt since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of them traveling to Europe and the West. Some settled in Israel.
Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and attacks on Jewish properties.
Only scores of Jews, most of them elderly, remain in Egypt. Synagogues are heavily guarded and are mainly tourist sites now.
AP contributed to this report.