Joann Sfar: Drawing Algeria from memory

Drawing from Memory’, broadcast tonight on the US channel KQED, is a film about cartoonist Joann Sfar, whose famous film, The Rabbi’s Cat is based on his grandmother’s tales of her native Algeria. The San Franciso Jewish Weekly has this profile of filmaker Sam Ball, and his subject Joann Sfar.

If anyone still thinks comic books or graphic novels are strictly kids’ stuff, a few minutes with Parisian cartoonist Joann Sfar will erase that misconception.

San Francisco filmmaker Sam Ball’s evocative and marvelous documentary, “Joann Sfar Draws from Memory,” introduces us to the iconoclastic Jewish artist and filmmaker who topped France’s bestseller list with “The Rabbi’s Cat.”

Inspired by his grandmother’s tales of life in Algeria in the 1920s, Sfar set his talking-cat saga in a neighborhood where Jewish, Arab and French traditions coexisted and overlapped.

Ball says, “There’s a line in our film from Joann: ‘I wanted to show Jewish kids that their ancestors came from North Africa’ — which is true of about half of France’s Jews — ‘and I wanted to remind Muslim kids that there were Jews in North Africa, and they more or less got along for centuries.’ There’s no reason to have nostalgia because it wasn’t idyllic, but there is something that has been lost.”

“Joann Sfar Draws from Memory” airs on KQED (tonight) following its appearance in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Sfar’s screen adaptation of “The Rabbi’s Cat” won the César for best animated feature last year and is just beginning to reach the U.S.

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