The Last Jews of Libya, a documentary by Vivienne Roumani-Denn, chronicles the history and plight of the Jewish community in Libya, particularly in the 20th century. Through the story of her own family, Roumani-Denn weaves together a touching and harrowing tale of a family and community torn apart by war and held together by tradition. Beautifully narrated by Isabella Rossellini, the documentary sheds light on the thriving Jewish community that once existed in Libya, tracing its origins to the 3rd century B.C. Although its existence was by no means secure and without bloodshed, it was not until the dawn of the Second World War that the Jews of Libya faced their greatest troubles. The arrival of the Italians eventually ushered in fascism, an assault on the community that left a lasting mark, only to be followed by British rule under which the Jews suffered one of the worst pogroms of that era. With the independence of Libya and the pan Arab movement that followed, the last remaining Jews of Libya fled, leaving only a memory of a once-thriving community. Roumani-Denn brings together her family, her photographs and her memories to chronicle this disappearance, raising some very important questions about identity, community, family and finally, the dilemma that still faces many in the Jewish communities across the world today: finding a hoe in the world. Preceded by Shut-Eye Hotel, directed by Bill Plympton.
VIVIENNE ROUMANI-DENN was 12 years old when her family emigrated to Boston from Benghazi, Libya, where her ancestors had lived for centuries. She has been a department head at the Johns Hopkins Library and the Library of Congress, and later became the Judaica/Hebraica Librarian at University of California, Berkeley in order to pursue her research on Sephardic Jewry. In 1999, she moved to New York and served as Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation, founding the Sephardic Library and Archives. She speaks Arabic, Hebrew, French, Spanish and Italian (the major languages of the Sephardic world) and has published and lectured widely on information technology, as well as Sephardic Jewry. This is her first film.