Arts

Poignant AJFF Film Chronicles Jewish Migration From Morocco

The protagonist of ''Midnight Orchestra,'' Michael Abitbol (left), slowly recollects his family history in Morocco as he traces his childhood steps.
The protagonist of ''Midnight Orchestra,'' Michael Abitbol (left), slowly recollects his family history in Morocco as he traces his childhood steps.
Credit STEFANO BERCA / AJFF
This week at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, moviegoers have the opportunity to learn about a little-recognized period in history.

The film, “Midnight Orchestra,” follows a Jewish man’s return to Morocco, where he was raised.

Slowly, through the film, he discovers why his father, a famous musician, made his family leave the country for Israel decades before.

”Midnight Orchestra,” by Moroccan-French director Jérôme Cohen-Olivar is screening at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. CREDIT COURTESY OF AJFF

The director of “Midnight Orchestra,” Jérôme Cohen-Olivar, said the fictitious family’s departure reflects a real decision that many Moroccan Jews made between the 1950s and 1970s when Arab-Israeli tensions flared.

“At the peak of the community, I think it was around a quarter of a million, 250,000 Jews in Morocco, which is a lot if you count the total Jewish population – the world Jewish population,” said Cohen-Olivar, speaking by phone from Morocco.

“Right now there are about 2,000 Jews left in Morocco, which is basically nothing,” Cohen-Olivar said. “So I just ask myself this question: ‘Why?’ It’s as simple as that. So that was the springboard of my story was just, ‘Why? Why did these people leave?'”

Cohen-Olivar’s film, “Midnight Orchestra, is screening at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival this Saturday.