Screening of Two Student Films: Out of the Mellah by Oren Samet-Marram and Re-membering by Luciana Chamorro
The Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University will present a screening of two student film documentaries, “Out of the Mellah” by Oren Samet-Marram and “Re-membering” by Luciana Chamorro on Thursday, May 3 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts, 185 Nassau Street. The screening is free and open to the public and coincides with the next Princeton ArtWalk. Repeat screenings will be held May 12 at 7:00 p.m. and May 13 at 4:00 p.m. in the Class of 1970 Theatre at Whitman College on the University campus.
The films take an anthropological look at two different communities and are culminating work by both students who are pursuing the film/video track certificate in the Program in Visual Arts.
Samet-Marram is a senior in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and pursuing a certificate in Near Eastern Studies, as well as Visual Arts. His documentary examines the Jewish community in Morocco, a population that is dwindling as its young people leave the northern African nation to attend college and do not return. In the late 1940s there were around 300,000 Jews in Morocco. In the years since most have left, and the population now stands at only a few thousand. “Out of the Mellah” explores how members of the remaining Moroccan Jewish community conceive of their future in the face of potential extinction.
“I am interested in how Jewish diaspora communities around the world sustain themselves in the face of emigration and assimilation,” explains Samet-Marram. “I was drawn to Morocco, which was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Samet-Marram filmed in Morocco last June, funded through the Lewis Center’s Summer Fund, and returned in January of this year. “My experience filming in Morocco provided a rare opportunity to interact with a wide range of members of the community,” he notes. “I attended synagogue services and cultural events, visited Jewish sites, and interviewed Moroccan Jews, old and young. I hope my film provides a glimpse into the daily life and practices of a community that some believe to be on the verge of extinction, while giving its members the opportunity to tell their own stories about the past, present and future.”
A senior in the Department of Anthropology, Chamorro is pursuing certificates in both Latin American Studies and Visual Arts. Her film documents fragments of the way the townspeople of San Juan del Norte remember the Nicaraguan civil war of the 1980s. The town was destroyed in 1984; at that time some members of the community fled to Costa Rica and became war refugees, while others joined the opposing armies of the war. After the end of the war in 1990 many returned to rebuild the town and organized with the help of an international NGO. The new town is 15 kilometers away from the destroyed town. Twenty years later, the man who was accused of giving the order to burn down the town, is returning as a government official to build an airport on the site of the now-abandoned Old San Juan del Norte.
Chamorro is from Managua, Nicaragua, and her film emerged in part out of her fieldwork for her anthropology thesis, which deals with the ways in which narratives about the past are constructed, shift and transform in the present context. However the project is also based on personal experience. “My interest in how the civil war is remembered emerges from my own experience growing up in Nicaragua,” she explains, “and realizing that the civil war is intricately linked to our country’s political, ethnic, national, and gender identities, but not always in explicit ways.”
The filmmaker engaged in two months of fieldwork research in San Juan in the summer of 2011, when she also filmed the footage for her documentary. While she approached her anthropology thesis and this film as separate projects, they informed each other.
“Issues of representation and editorial authority emerged in both cases,” she observes, “and both are a negotiation between voices that narrate ‘history,’ including my own. Translating my curiosity about the past into a film has allowed me to think more closely about the ways in which the past is narrated – the connections that people make when telling stories, and the resources they use to express themselves.”
The Princeton ArtWalk, also happening the evening of May 3 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., is an initiative of the local arts community offering a self-guided evening of visual arts activities in the downtown and on the University campus. The venues include the Lewis Center for the Arts, Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, the Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Firestone Library, Historic Morven, Historical Society of Princeton, Labyrinth Books, Princeton Public Library, and Small World Coffee. The venues will offer a variety of events, activities and refreshments.
In addition to the screening, a multimedia installation by senior Lex Brown will open in the Lucas Gallery, an exhibition of drawings and sculpture by senior Lauren VanZandt-Escobar will be on view in Room 301, and visitors can observe a Contemporary Modern Dance from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in the Patricia and Ward Hagan ’48 Dance Studio, all free. Following the ArtWalk, at 8:00 p.m. a new play by senior Jeff Kuperman will be performed in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio (tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and students). Continuously updated information on the ArtWalk can be found at www.facebook.com/princetonartwalk.