The Jewish Film Institute is pleased to present Sadeh as the Online Short of the Month for May 2022. Read a short interview with director Jessica Benhamou below.
About the Film: What does it mean to let land rest? This is the question on the mind of Felix, a queer climate activist who moved to the first Jewish farm in the United Kingdom after becoming disabled.
Jewish Film Institute: What was your biggest challenge making the film?
Jessica Benhamou: To be honest, directing this short was a dreamy experience — we spent a day filming in the sunshine at an idyllic farm. It’s hard to complain, for once. We made Sadeh as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival’s Short Doc Fund and the rule was that the short had to be three minutes. That was probably the most difficult element as it’s hard to tell a story in such a short length of time. Every word counts. Our contributor Felix does speak very quickly so that helped.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m developing two docuseries ideas — both investigative and psychologically twisting stories. There’s a narrative short film I’m making about the poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, as a writer/director. I’m very excited and lucky to be working with the most brilliant actor, Alex Lawther. We are currently fundraising and plan to shoot later in the year.
What kind of Jewish stories do you want to tell and what else is on your slate?
As a filmmaker, I want to explore my Jewish identity, history, and culture with freedom, authenticity, and panache. I want to subvert people’s expectations and surprise audiences with unexpected and unknown heroes. Most recently, I recently translated and directed an extract of Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker’s play, The Kahena: Berber Queen, about the Jewish Joan of Arc. It was the first published play by a woman in Algeria where my dad’s family are from and it felt very special to be bringing this Berber warrior queen to a stage in London, working with actors from the region. As a producer, I have just completed a short film, Samovar, about the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, who saved an estimated 100,000 Jews during the Holocaust before disappearing into the Soviet prison system. There’s an embryonic Jewish horror feature idea I’ve also been slowly developing.
About the Filmmaker: Jessica Benhamou is a writer, director, and producer working across documentaries and fiction. She is drawn to powerful stories that blend creative storytelling with journalistic inquiry. After producing a number of award-winning shorts, her first feature, Love Type D, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival where it was nominated for an Audience Choice Award. Jessica studied Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, followed by a MA in Investigative Journalism at City University London.
JFI Online Shorts features one new short film each month from emerging and established filmmakers. Since 2009, JFI has showcased over 100 online shorts and garnered worldwide views over 2 million on the JFI Youtube channel. Learn more at www.jfi.org.