Ethiopia’s Last Jews
- Peter Decherney
- Cinema and Media Studies Program, School of Arts & Sciences
- Independent Creative Production Grant
Peter Decherney will complete a book of photographs and text exploring the Jewish Community in Gondar, Ethiopia and its members’ decades-long struggle to gain permission to emigrate to Israel. The book will provide an expansive exploration of the community’s history, culture, traditions, and everyday life. In addition to telling the story of this communities past, the book will bring the narrative into the present. In 2020-2021, Gondar’s Jewish community has seen dramatic changes to its situation. A violent war has broken out in the neighboring Tigray region of Ethiopia, and it has begun to spill over into Amhara where they live. And like so many other communities, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only taken many lives, it has all but erased the already scarce economic opportunities. At the same time, 2020-21 also saw new Israeli policies opening the door to increased immigration.
Peter Decherney is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and teacher. He is Professor and Director of Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and has been an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scholar, a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, and a U.S. State Department Arts Envoy to Myanmar. Since 2015, he has directed a series of documentary and virtual reality films about global migration and on the political role of artists. FILMMAKING FOR DEMOCRACY IN MYANMAR (2015) took viewers into the world of Myanmar’s politically subversive straight-to-DVD film industry. His first virtual reality project explored an experimental refugee settlement in Kenya near the South Sudanese border. He followed with a 12 episode docuseries THE HEART OF PUERTO RICO (co-directed with Jean Lee) about artists after Hurricane Maria. The series won Best Virtual Reality Experience at the 2020 AT&T Film Awards. His most recent film, DREAMING OF JERUSALEM (co-directed with Sosena Solomon), about the Jewish community in Gondar, Ethiopia, is a Discovery+ Original. He is also the author or editor of six books including Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet and Hollywood: A Very Short Introduction. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, and Inside Higher Ed, among other places. His free online course on the history of Hollywood has enrolled more that 60,000 learners.
- Cinema and Media Studies Program
- Independent Creative Production
- Making Art Grant
- School of Arts & Sciences