The Missing Tale
For virtual screening: The Missing Tale will be virtually available July 31- Aug 3*
*The film can be shown on any platform. Just copy and paste the link on your laptop, computer, smart phone, etc. Link will be sent in email 24 hours before viewing start day. Be sure to check your spam/ junk and promotions folders for the email.
The Stowe Jewish Film Festival returns for its 7th season in 2022!
This year’s theme: The Jewish Experience: a multiplicity of cultures, languages, countries, traditions and colors. Patterns of immigration have taken Jews all over the world, melding and merging, creating hybrid cultures and complex identities.
About The Missing Tale
For almost 2000 years, there has been a flourishing Jewish community in the South Indian city of Cochin. When I started to shoot my documentary, there were only seven people left, living next to their synagogue. Thousands of Cochin Jews migrated to the Promised Land of Israel, leaving their old relatives behind and their ancestors buried in Cochin cemeteries.
Among the remaining ones, I came to discover my Jewish grandmother in the eldest Jewess of Cochin. But when I met her, 95-year-old SARAH COHEN, once the backbone of the community, was slowly losing her memory. So the memory of the entire community was in danger. She entrusted me her legacy, together with rare archival footage and stories of unique coexistence between Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews.
During the shooting I met some ‘self-appointed’ guardians who decided to carry on with this age-old heritage. One of them was a Muslim tailor, THAHA (45) who took over Sarah’s embroidery of Jewish ritual cloths and started to document the last moments of her life with a tiny handycam. The other one was BABU (60), the guardian of a crumbling synagogue. His life mission was to restore the building and his community as well. The third one was a contemporary Israeli artist, MEYDAD (34) who came to Cochin to paint the portrayal of deceased community members on collapsing Jewish buildings.
The narrative arc of the film follows the eclipse of Sarah Cohen’s life and the guardians’ struggle to commemorate the old days of this unique community. The film uncovers the conflict between the so-called White Jews and Black Jews of Cochin, and gives us a glimpse into Babu’s Don Quixote fight to find place for his Black Jewish narrative as well. We also witness his struggle to restore religious life in his Synagogue, which has been a storage room for the past forty years. But in parallel with these events, we follow the director’s quest to explore what has been omitted from her family history and her experience how it feels to be part of a community – her own or that of the White/Black Jews of Cochin.
During the shooting of this documentary, I have become the last guardian of Cochin memories: chosen by my “found grandmother” and her “found footage”. Once I discovered that discrimination did exist in Cochin too, I struggled to find place for the narrative of both Black and White Jews in my film. Moreover, while filming I had to face my own Eastern European identity as well. Through the heritage shared by this proud Indian Jewess, Sarah and this dedicated man, Babu, I decided to tell my grandmother’s missing tale.
The Missing Tale is a feature documentary constructed by situations, interactions between the protagonists and some unique family archives, photos, found footage – which represent the protagonists’ nostalgia and anxiety – and the last sigh of a lost community. The director, one of the Wardens, appears through her poetic voiceover narration as well as being addressed by the protagonists while she is behind the camera
The Missing Tale is a creative documentary that combines a very personal family story with the intimate story of a dwindling community. What a European filmmaker and the South Asian Jewish community has in common is oblivion and repression. Neither Cochini Jews born in Israel, nor I have been initiated to our families’ stories about migration, racism and painful memories. As I was working on the film, Cochini descendants approached me to say: this film will be a milestone in the community’s life, and it will finally start a dialogue between parents and children, Jews of India and Israel, White Jews and Black Jews too. But most importantly, the film is meant to talk to the widest of audiences, regardless of origin, religion or ethnic affiliation: it is about the nature of oblivion and discrimination, and how small gestures could heal age-old conflicts. The documentary and a website with additional content (eg. excerpts shot in Israel with Cochin children about their identity, one of the protagonists’ additional footage to commemorate the Jewish community etc.) will be a unique resource for educational institutions too.
Special thanks to our film sponsors:
|Stowe Country Homes
About the Stowe Jewish Film Festival:
The Stowe Jewish Film Festival (SJFF), a program of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe, works with the intention of bringing community together, both internal and external. The festival is an opportunity to reach out to others in the central Vermont region to engage in community building and dialogue through cultural entertainment. We see this as important now more than ever.