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Directed by Simone Bitton
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Celebrated documentary filmmaker Simone Bitton (Ben Barka, Palestine: Story of a Land, Wall, Rachel) returns with her most personal film to date. Inviting viewers on a cinematic pilgrimage to her homeland of Morocco, Bitton explores her Jewish roots through the sphere of the Muslim guardians of the nation’s Jewish memory, centered around the tradition of "ziyara".

In the arid but beautiful landscape of rural Morocco, the country’s youngest citizens have largely never themselves coexisted alongside Jews, although their presence is still felt in symbols, old shrines, synagogues and cemeteries. Many Muslims still maintain and find beauty in these commodities, seeing them as a timeless connection to the word of God.

Throughout the film, Bitton investigates the tradition of ziyara itself, a shared tradition between both Muslims and Jews. Pilgrims take a few days off in order to visit the tombs of saints, not only pray but more importantly to commune with nature, celebrate outdoors, meet new people and exchange ideas. The film is Bitton’s opportunity to revisit her original identity through the eyes of maturity, rooted not in nostalgia, but in her willingness to tell the story of Jews and Muslims, as has been the consistent theme in her work for decades. And in revisiting Morocco and the "ziyara" tradition, Bitton finds a story of hope.

Bitton conducts intimate conversations not only with those old enough to remember sharing their land with Jews, but with a new generation of Moroccans inspired by their heritage. These deeply personal insights include everyday people and specialists, all of them modest and magnificent heroes in a relentless quest for modernity, dignity, and social justice.

“As she has done throughout her illustrious career, Bitton brings an inimitable and thought-provoking new perspective to the complexities of the Arab world.” —Kaleem Aftab, Variety

“With Ziyara — 'a form of pilgrimage to sacred places' — Bitton takes the viewer on a heartbreaking, powerful and visually entrancing road trip. It’s a portrait both of absence and of a relationship that could have been.” —Lauren Wissot, Filmmaker Magazine

“As well as its historical and political importance, Ziyara is enhanced by the pure aesthetic delight of its documentation of older religious artifacts and places.” —Matt Micucci, FRED Film Radio

“A tender, beautiful film that immerses the viewer in a sense of place.” —Michal Goldman, EMRO

Cinéma du Réel 2021
Middle East Studies Association (MESA) FilmFest 2021
Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival 2020
Cairo International Film Festival 2020

99 minutes / Color
Arabic; French; Hebrew; English / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 2021
Copyright: 2020

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Subject areas:
Africa, Morocco, Middle East, History, Jewish Studies, Religion, Women's Studies

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