• The Burden of Self-Representation: Reflections on Shhur and Its Legacy for Contemporary Mizrahi Films in Israel

    In hindsight, Hannah Azulai-Hasfari’s 1995 semi-autobiographical film Shḥur heralded the rise of new Mizrahi cinema—a corpus of contemporary films that features Mizrahi traditions, experiences, and struggle and brings Mizrahi subjectivity to the fore. Given the often uncomplimentary on-screen depiction of the Mizrahi during the formative years of Israeli cinema and the scant Mizrahi self-representation through the early 1990s, one could anticipate the public and scholarly interest in and heightened sensitivity around the elaborate portrayal of the Moroccan family and customs in Azulai-Hasfari’s film. This essay explores the particular modalities of this burden of representation and the strategies the filmmaker employed to unburden herself. Whereas the burden of representation is often situated in the realm of production (the particular directorial choices as they pertain to narrative, cast, space, etc. in the making of a film), the analysis of Shḥur in this essay opts to focus on the modalities along which the burden of representation materializes in the realm of reception. This essay’s final section adumbrates the film’s particular construction of a Mizrahi space as well as its use of languages as devices that left their marks in feature, documentary, short, and experimental Mizrahi films for years afterward. In turn, this more recent crop of Mizrahi films has modified the parameters of the burden of Mizrahi self-representation.

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