Following the Sundance premiering “Odessa, Odessa” and Venice title “Land of Oblivion,” French-Israeli filmmaker Michale Boganim is back on the Lido with “The Forgotten Ones” (“Mizrahim, Les Oublies de la Terre Promise”).
The film, represented in international markers by Reservoir Docs, is a heartfelt documentary exploring the systemic discrimination against Oriental Jews in Israel through the story of Boganim’s late father, who emigrated from Morocco and was part of Israel’s lesser-known Black Panthers movement in the 1970s. “The Forgotten Ones,” which world premieres in the Venice Days section Sept. 6, was just acquired by Sophie Dulac Distribution and will be released in France in early 2022.
Boganim, who started developing the film years ago, embarked on a road trip across Israel’s impoverished suburbs along with her young daughter and met Sephardi Jews from different generations whose lives have been shaped in some ways by this discrimination. Many of them are children or grandchildren of people who emigrated from North Africa and the Middle East.
The helmer says the film addresses the issue of inheritance, but also exposes the pervasive racism that still exists within the Israeli society towards Arabs, whether they are Jews or Muslims. “Ultimately, Jews from Arab countries have faced a social, cultural and even economic prejudice in Israel,” says Boganim. The film makes the case that Oriental Jews were and still are, in many cases, denied opportunities and continue to be perceived as inferior, culturally speaking, to Ashkenazim, who have a Eastern European heritage and represent the majority in Israel.
“When I met these young people who live in Israeli projects I realized that what they’re going through, the way they have channeled that rage and developed an underground culture is similar to what children of immigrants are doing in many countries around the world, for instance in the U.S. or France,” says Boganim. “This is when I realized how universal the immigrant experience is.”
“The Forgotten Ones” was produced by Marie Balducchi at Paris-based Ex Nihilo, and co-produced by Lama Films, Bonne Nouvelle and Studio Orlando. Although the movie received financial backing from France’s National Film Board’s Cinema du Monde initiative and the Ile de France region, it didn’t get funding from Israel until the very end of the production. “Unlike my previous documentary feature ‘Odessa, Odessa’ I didn’t get funding from the Israeli film commissions, which in my mind underscores the fact that this issue is still somewhat taboo,” explains Boganim. Eventually, “The Forgotten Ones” did get some post-production support from Israel.
Boganim recently wrapped “Tel-Aviv/Beirut,” a historical drama set against the backdrop of the Israeli–Lebanese conflict in 1982 and 2006. Sold by WTFilms, “Tel-Aviv/Beirut” tells the true story of Lebanese people who collaborated with the Israeli army to fight Hezbollah with a cast of Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese actors including Zalfa Seurat, Sarah Adler (“Foxtrot”), Shlomi Elkabetz (“Our Boys”), Younès Bouab (“The Unknown Saint”), Sofia Essaïdi (“La Promesse”) and Maayane Boganim.
Boganim is also developing “Borough Park,” a long-gestated English language feature set between Borough Park’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and Manhattan.