A highlight of the NYSJFF is the bestowal of the Pomegranate Award for Sephardi Excellence in the Arts. Now in its 21st iteration, NYSJFF remains true to its founding purpose to advance the understanding of Sephardi history, literature, poetry, music, dance, customs and traditions.
Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement
Senior Adviser to King Mohammed VI of MoroccoBio >
Mr. André Azoulay, Counsellor to His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, received ASF’s Pomegranate Award
for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his remarkable life’s work bridging religious divides through artistic and
other cultural endeavors.
In 1992, to revitalize the historical, cultural, and spiritual legacy of his hometown, Counsellor Azoulay founded the Essaouira-Mogador Foundation. The Festival of the Andalousies Atlantiques, one of the Foundation’s eight cultural festivals, is the only one in the world where the stages are exclusively dedicated to Muslim and Jewish musicians, singers, and dancers. Counsellor Azoulay is also a strong supporter of the Association Mimouna, a movement of young Moroccan Muslims who preserve and promote the Moroccan Jewish heritage as an essential part of the Moroccan identity.
Counsellor Azoulay is a member of the Royal Academy of Morocco and the Spanish Royal Academy for Economy and Finances, and on the board of the Institute Pierre Mendes France (Paris). He has received several Doctorates (Honoris Causae) from leading world universities, including the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
President of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue Between Cultures (2008-2015; Brussels), member of the Committee of Wise Men for the Alliance of Civilizations at the United Nations, Deputy Chairman
of the Foundation of the Three Cultures and Three Religions (Seville), administrator of the Mediterranean Forum and the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, Counsellor Azoulay has devoted a large part of his life to restoring trust and mutual understanding between Judaism and Islam.
Rising Star Pomegranate Award
Davina Pardo is an Emmy award-winning director and producer who most recently produced Very Semi-Serious, a feature-length documentary about New Yorker cartoonists. Very Semi-Serious premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, was broadcast on HBO, and received an Emmy for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming. Davina has directed and produced several award-winning documentary shorts on themes of place and memory, including Minka, which was nominated for both IDA and Cinema Eye Honors awards and was featured on NYTimes.com, and Yesterday In Rwanda, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Her latest film, 116 Cameras, will première at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Davina previously worked as assistant to David Cronenberg and was an associate producer for the Academy Award-winning documentary Freeheld. A native of Canada, she has an MA in Documentary Production from Stanford University and a BA from Amherst College, and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Pomegranate Award for Directors
Sabine Krayenbühl is an award-winning editor with over 20 theatrical documentaries and narrative features to her credit, many of which have premiered at prestigious festivals around the world. Her work includes Oscar and Independent Spirit Award nominated My Architect for which she received an American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddie Award nomination. Other credits include Mad Hot Ballroom, one of the top twenty highest grossing documentaries, The Bridge produced by IFC, Picasso and Braque go to the Movies, produced by Martin Scorsese, Virgin Tales, Ahead of Time, Jennifer Fox’s Emmy nominated My Reincarnation, Salinger on which she consulted and most recently Eric Steel’s Kiss the Water, co-produced by BBC Films. Krayenbühl has a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is a long-term member of New York Women in Film and Television.
Pomegranate Award for Directors
Zeva Oelbaum is an award-winning producer and photographer. She recently produced Ahead of Time, a feature documentary about centenarian journalist Ruth Gruber which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before garnering six Best Documentary awards. The film opened theatrically across the U.S. and was broadcast on Showtime Channel. Oelbaum was also executive producer of the feature documentary, Rene and I. She comes to film from a career as a still photographer and her work has been extensively published in periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine. Her photographs are in international public collections including the Bibliothèque nationale de France and The Brooklyn Museum and two monographs of her work have been published by Rizzoli Int’l Publishers. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in anthropology, and a member of the Producer’s Guild.
Musician, PerformerBio >
Ema Shah is a multi-talented Kuwaiti performer whose anthropological approach to music and civil society activism have made her one of the Arab world’s most courageous celebrities. Appearing regularly on al-Arabiya and MTV Middle East, Ema sings, composes, plays piano and guitar, acts, writes, dances, and directs. Her shorts have been internationally honored, including at the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival in Hollywood (Best Music Video), 2014 Winter Film Awards in New York City (Best Music Video), and 2014 Twickenham Alive Riverside Film Festival in London (International Drama Award). Ema’s song “Aleqini” earned the Bronze Medal at the 2015 Global Music Awards. In 2010, as part of an effort to bridge cultural divides in her homeland, Ema performed Dalida’s French/Hebrew rendition of Hava Nagila and songs by Enrico Macias, the Algerian-born, French-Jewish musical legend and recipient of ASF’s 2014 Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, at a two-day Kuwait University Alumni Club folk music concert. Rejecting demands that she censor the program and charges that performing in Hebrew is offensive and tantamount to treason, Ema, a member of The Kuwaiti Society for Human Rights, asserted her right to freedom of expression and defended the power of music to “connect people around the world and remove barriers created by extremists who oppose freedom, liberalism and democracy.” Other memorable performances include a 2012 concert for Kuwait’s Prince Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmed al-Sabah, various events for the United Nations, and the lead in Saudi Director Mohammed al-Saber’s Who Killed Sarah, which premièred at the 2015 Dubai International Film Festival
Erez Biton is a pioneering and award-winning Israeli poet of North African heritage. Biton immigrated to Israel with his family in 1948 but was blinded by a stray hand grenade at the age of ten. Biton’s five books of poetry, including his most recent work, Blindfolded Landscapes, explore both his North African Jewish heritage and his blindness with exceptional courage, openness and honesty. Recently awarded both the Yehuda Amichai poetry prize and the Bialik lifetime achievement award, Biton is critically celebrated as, “the founding father of a new and significant tradition in the history of Modern Hebrew poetry—Israeli Sephardic poetry,” according to Hannan Hever, the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Prof of Hebrew Language & Literature at Yale University.
Kamal Hachkar is a critically acclaimed, French-Moroccan filmmaker of Amazigh (“Berber”) Muslim heritage. Born in Morocco but raised in France, Hachkar spent his summers with his family in their Moroccan hometown of Tinghir. After learning about a thriving Jewish community that once populated the town but that had left for Israel and was now erased from the history books, Hachkar was stirred to document, in film, the lost Judeo-Moroccan heritage. The result, From Tinghir to Jerusalem: Echoes from the Mellah, premiered in 2013 at the American Sephardi Federation’s 16th NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. Subsequently featured in festivals around the world, From Tinghir to Jerusalem was shown on Moroccan television, an unprecedented achievement for a film exploring a topic usually considered to be off-limits, and earned the prestigious Tangier Award, one of the highest honors in Moroccan cinema.
Enrico Macias, born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine, Algeria, has achieved international renown as a singer-songwriter.Entertaining audiences around the world for over 50 years, the artistry and the pain that drive Macias’ music lie buried in the homeland he was forced to flee. Macias, who has sold hundreds of thousands of records and performed in front of audiences of over a hundred thousand people played a concert in Egypt at the behest of Anwar Sadat, has been awarded France’s Légion d’honneur (1985), and was named “Singer of Peace” (1981) and “Ambassador at Large for Peace and the Protection of the Children of the World” (1997) by the United Nations.
Izza Génini was born in 1942 in Casablanca, Morocco. She is a director and producer, known for Embroidered Canticles (1989), Songs for a Shabbat (1989) and Nûba of Gold and Light (2007).
Oud and violin player, composer, singer, and teacherBio >
Iraqi-Israeli oud and violin player, composer, singer, and teacher, Yair Dalal is a prolific musician whose albums span genres as diverse as classical to Arabic folk and Babylonian Jewish. Yair endeavors through his performances and presentations to preserve the musical cultures of disappearing peoples.
Ronit Elkabetz’s screen presence grips audiences the world over. Recognized for her work with three Orphir Awards and a further four nominations as well as the French Culture Award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Moroccan-born actress and director works in both Israeli and French cinema. Her latest movie, Gett: the Trial of Viviane Amsalem, has been widely acclaimed and is playing in theaters throughout New York City.