The attacks, the insatiable appetite of fashion brands for Le Marais quarter, in Paris, and the growing fear of antisemitism all provoked a slow exodus of the Jewish population from this area. Those who remain give a rare show of multiple cohabitation, where gays, fashionistas and tourists can all mingle with Jews. The jewish population itself is hybrid, between Ashkenazy and Sephardi, ultra-religious and seculars. Optimism is still on : new generations, sensitive to their beliefs as well as to this hip district, are creating new places, bringing a renewal.
This heteroclite mixing turns this street into something totally unique, showing possible agreements, a permanent adaptability, and a microcosm, mirror of a whole population. It’s this extravaganza and positive energy that my film intends to tell.
I have lived on rue Pavée for the past ten years,. Every day I see orthodox Jews on their bikes, at dawn, going to the famous Pavée synagogue. They tend to keep a low profile, with humility. They have long beards, curly hair, hats and black coats. Tsitsit, these fringes which line the Tallit, flies according to the wind. Their looks are dimmed, they avoid looking at women, cameras, tourists. An hour later, the wives arrive driving 4X4 vehicles, they block the street to drop their numerous children going to school. They look powerful, nothing frightens them.
I have been intrigued by them for as long as I have been here.
Around the corner, the Rosiers street shows a very different population, Jewish shopkeepers, open, talkative, seeing opportunities everywhere, mixing with pleasure with gays, tourists and other religions. Others, less busy, spend the day in the streets and create links by gossiping.
I walked by food stores, searching for spicy smells, for the sweet scent of mediterranean art-de-vivre, and for generous smiles. The ambiance is quite different from the Pavée street. Between the fashion stores each day more numerous, the falafel shops are ruling. Here, everyone eats everywhere, and all throughout the day. « Street food » was born here. The lines are long, very long, and well fed by touts, evicting competitors next to them. In the center of the street, after 5:00pm, jews are are collared by members of their religious order for a fast prayer with tefillins : in the middle of the crowd, they put on their foreheads and arms the fine leather laces and recite their prayers. Tourists are following umbrellas brandished by guides telling them the past story of the neighborhood, while trendy fashion addicts are looking at the well stocked shop windows, gays are on their way to LGBT bars nearby. Each follow their own path, parallel to the other. And everybody eats the same thing.
The Jews have been in the Paris area since the Roman conquests, 1st century prior to JC. In the Middle Ages, their history was dominated by vulnerability, fruit of the ambivalence of the policy of the authorities. " Foreigners from the inside ", they were necessary to prosperity: the church had forbidden interest-bearing loans, they were asked to handle all financial activities. Later chased away from the city, they settled down in the swamp (the Marais) in the12th century, formerly outside the city.
They were expelled from it in 1306, only to return in the 19th century, having obtained their emancipation. At the beginning of the 19th century, roughly 110.000 Yiddishs Jews were in Paris, seduced by the revolutionary prestige of the country. Then, the Nazis exterminated a large number of them, the "Pletzl" emptied, but the businesses stood firm: furriers, silversmiths, grocers …Traders of eggs and chickens disappeared decades ago. Of three bookshops on the street only one remains. From about ten kosher butchers, they are now no more than two. The synagogue on the street des Ecouffes has become a kosher pizzeria, the later now being a bag store. The hairdresser who used to cut hair while respecting religious rites became a secondhand clothes shop. The Sephardi who squeezed up in the buildings where, before them, Ashkenazi families lived between laughters and shouts in barely a few hundred square feet, now give way to Hipsters.
In spite of the massive exodus, new generations are coming in, surfing on the trendiness of the area, inventing new concepts, striving to reconcile their traditions with the modern world, opening their arms to all the differences: religious, sexual, cultural … and finding opportunities everywhere.
I wish to show, through this movie, images of a neighborhood that keeps transforming and re-inventing itself constantly.
PEOPLE FEATURED IN THE DOCUMENTARY
The objective in the making of tis movie is to cross different thinkings in an enlarged perspective, where the emotional and human point of vue demonstrate with evidence the sociological, anthropological and cultural point of views.
Delphine Horvilleur, who started as a journalist and is the second rabbi women in France, has lived in the neighborhood for years, and will be a recurring character in this movie, acting both as a religious expert and witness of how life is in the neighborhood. Because she is a rabbi, she will explain how this religion re-interprets constantly its texts. Because she is a woman and a feminist (her book « Dressed as Eve » analyses modesty and the feminine in Judaism), she will tell the different evolutions of orthodox and liberal women within the neighborhood community. Because she lives in the area and often collects the confidences or the concerns of her neighbors, she will have a relevant analysis of the way it transforms. She will show the thousand facets of people who every morning embrace life in a different way. Her fights, her culture, her traditions, her feminism and her anecdotes will guide us all throughout the movie.
The history of this neighborhood and its population will be enriched by spices, while going through the arteries of the district. In between street scenes (where all different populations link by all eating falafels in the street), observation of religious rites in one of the 7 synagogues in the area, I will also meet some of the poetic people allowing to get a glimpse of the local population, to better understand them, and the peculiar atmosphere in which « the living space transcend the geometrical space »(G. Bachelard).
Henri, butcher rue des Ecouffes, has been in that street since he arrived in France, as a child. In a small apartment with no bathroom, he was mainly living in the streets, and had his first pair of shoes only thanks to the mayor. He was surviving in a style close to the one depicted in the movie « Once upon a time in America » doing small jobs for the Jewish Mafia. Today, his restaurants and butcher shop are blooming, but when antisemitic incidents happen, he organises a defense that complement quite well the one of the French police.
Elie is a retired banker, who arrived rue des Ecouffes from his native Algeria, as a teenager. He remains in the same appartement that belonged to his parents, and where his kids grew up. His love of the neighborhood is such that he collects any paraphernalia and photos he can find on the district, allowing him to keep vivid his souvenirs from this unique place.
Jérôme abandoned his job as a lawyer to open a falafel restaurant. He also loves to psychoanalyze people and sacred texts. He passionately loves entering in contact with passers-by that he invites to enter his place, as well as discussing neighboring relations, sometimes ressembling Greek tragedies when "affairs" get more complicated.
Eric used to go every Thursdays to the Turkish baths, rue des Rosiers. The first few years, the place was replacing his non-existing bathroom at home. Then, it was the place where he would hook up with his friends. Later, the man who dreamed to be a hairdresser, opened the Bains du Marais, allying luxury with tradition.
Louise dreamed of having a bookstore. She had to buy a whole building. She took this opportunity to open the first Jewish nursery, in the sixties. Today, the nursery is long gone and her husband died, but she refuses to retire, and still runs the last Jewish bookstore in the street, along with her kids. She reads any book on the neighborhood, and militate with rigor from the back of her shop.
GO FAST FILMS
Go Fast is a production company making movies for cinema, TV and Internet. Last production to date is "Doom Doom", a web series for Canal +, written by Laurent Abitbol and Virgile Bramly and directed by Laurent Abitbol.
WHY AM I DOING THIS FILM, AND ONLY RELYING ON YOUR CROWDFUNDING TO FINANCE IT ?
Some thirty-five years ago, I was a photographer taking pictures of people that very few cared about : those who invented Hip-Hop, in the Bronx. Nobody cared (or almost!), but them. Since then, half of the planet has embraced their ideas and lifestyle, and my photos have gone around the world.
I don't mean to say that this is a repetition of the same thing. But I am convinced that one day, when the Jews will no longer be visible in that particular street, people are likely to feel nostalgic, or just to want to catch the essence of what it was. And they may very well be happy to find a film online that will not only show what has disappeared, but the emotions and the strength of those who made this neighborhood, but for one reason or another had no other choice but to leave ... Thank you !
WITH YOUR HELP, THE MOVIE COULD BE AVAILABLE BY JUNE 2016