Tuesday, October 12, 2004

My project with A is developing nicely. He wrote up my draft to send on to cultural Pooh-Bah. A is the quintessential Nice Jewish Boy.

"We met in July at Barbes for the Roy Smeck tribute featuring Elliott Sharp and a screening of my documentary film, "The Wizard of the Strings." You may recall that we spoke briefly on the phone about a week or so ago about a project SR and have recently begun work on.

The film is a timely one, as it addresses issues about ethnic identity and religious belief that, especially in the post-9/11 world, are truly urgent. To be specific, we are shaping our work around the following questions: Who are the Mz of the eastern Himalayas and why are they converting to Judaism? Are these tribes, found on both sides of the Indian-Myanmar border, really the Menashe, the long-presumed lost Twelfth Tribe of Israel? Are the oral ballads of Mz memory, which tell of migrations across Central Asia proof enough or are DNA analyses necessary? Surely the similarities of crossing the Sabbath River could just as well be another archetypal story, a constructed memory.

Or it could be the familiar conflation of religious and ethnic identities when a people convert, and the need for new stories to tell about oneself.

But why are highly intelligent people, both among the Israelis and the Mz, so passionate about the conversion to Judaism among a people who had but only recently converted to Christianity. Does the Biblical injunction to gather together all the tribes for the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem serve the desire of impoverished tribal people to migrate to a more prosperous Westernized country? If so, why leave the battle-scarred armed conflicts of India and Burma only to be settled in the middle of yet another war in the occupied West Bank? Ultimately, what are both sides in search of?

A collaboration between an American Jew and a native of the Indian state of
M has the potential to add another layer to an already rich topic. SR is a filmmaker and a film and media curator specializing in exhibitions in
Asian, Asian American and nonfiction films. He is currently developing
international media projects with Appalshop, the Appalachian arts collective in Kentucky. The projects are on regional filmmaking and local cultures in the age of globalization and new technologies...."

And then he goes on an on with more blather about me and him. But you get the picture. But I was truly impressed by his polishing up my draft and adding more.

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