Hampstead director's short premieres at Jewish Film Festival

A still from Jess Benhamou's short film Sadeh

A still from Jess Benhamou's short film Sadeh which premieres on November 14 at JW3 as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival - Credit: Cameron Axsel

A short film about a Jewish farm will premiere at JW3 as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

Hampstead director Jess Benhamou shot the three minute film Sadeh with a grant from the festival's documentary fund to tell an unusual story about the UK Jewish community.

Benhamou said the Kent farm, which attracts a diverse group of Jewish and non Jewish artists, environmental activists, pickers, and Orthodox families staying in its 'eco hotel,' seemed a good topic.

A still from Sadeh

A still from Sadeh - Credit: Cameron Axsel

"We wanted to move away from the idea that all Jews in the UK live in the suburbs, or would never do farming," she said.

"We think about Jewish film characters as funny or neurotic, but this was a step away to something more meditative."

Sadeh

A still from Sadeh - Credit: Cameron Axsel

Sadeh focuses on Felix, a queer climate activist who lives on the farm.

"We went for a recce and it was a glorious stress free day of filming and conducting interviews in the sunshine. Felix was incredibly eloquent and someone new to the farm. In the edit we carved out a focal point about the ancient agricultural Jewish law of 'Shmita,' that every seven years you have to leave the land fallow. It resonated with things people have been thinking about during the pandemic, like the need for rest."

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Many of Sadeh's community have felt disconnected to Judaism for various reasons, but found reconnection to their heritage and religion through nature. As a documentary maker more used to "darker subjects" such as crime and investigative reporting, Benhamou says: "This is lighter than my usual remit but a nice change. Like many people I spent more time outdoors during the pandemic appreciating nature."

She adds: "It's clearly important right now to be telling different stories about the UK Jewish community, and nurturing film makers early in their careers. There is a hesitation sometimes in telling Jewish stories. Some I know said they were afraid to apply (to the fund) because anything that is Jewish suddenly feels very political. But it's important to change how people think about the Jewish community."

Sadeh director Hampstead-based Jess Benhamou

Sadeh director Hampstead-based Jess Benhamou - Credit: Brittany Ashworth

"It's been a process for me to start telling Jewish stories. I've been reluctant, but I'm happier now to embrace it. Nobody wants to be boxed in, but I've realised whether or not you want to be considered as just a person, people are going to make assumptions about who you are anyway."

UK Jewish Film Festival runs until November 14.

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