Directed by Westfield native Brad Rothschild, the film chronicles the exodus of approximately 60,000 Africans — primarily from Sudan and Eritrea — fleeing their respective countries over the past decade due to war and dictatorships. Although they are not Jewish, many seek refuge and asylum in Israel, where they find the country’s infrastructure ill-equipped to deal with them. While the state searches for a solution, Israel’s civil society steps into the breach to manage this humanitarian crisis.
Ameinu, the national organization that promotes “Liberal Values, Progressive Israel,” is the beneficiary of this screening. Ameinu CEO Gideon Aronoff said the film “provides key information and background on an issue of the day with a focus on the people and the lives lived while confronting this challenge in Israel.”
He added, “This issue, while very controversial in Israel, is also an example of a global challenge that we are seeing not only in Israel, but in Turkey, Hungary, Germany, South Africa, and so many places around the world.”
“African Exodus sheds light upon and draws needed attention to the previously unexplored and often hidden world of African refugees inhabiting Israel,” said Bud Mayo, Carmike’s alternative programming and distribution division president, who called the film a “must-see.”
Rothschild, who also coproduced Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald, about the visit to the concentration camp of four men who survived its horrors as boys, explained why he was drawn to making African Exodus. “I am the son of a refugee,” he said. “My father came to the United States in 1939 from Nazi Germany…. “I wanted to see how Israel, a country founded by refugees and Holocaust survivors, would respond to an unexpected influx of non-Jewish refugees.
In making the film, said Rothschild, “I saw firsthand how some Israelis use their Jewish values to assist the strangers in their midst, while others invoke their beliefs to try to keep the asylum seekers out. I also witnessed the difficulties faced by the asylum seekers in trying to establish new lives in a country where they are not always welcome.”