400 Miles to Freedom

Avishai Mekonen’s fascinating documentary celebrates the diversity of the Jewish diaspora as the director comes to terms with his own extraordinary story. Born into a 2,500-year-old community of Ethiopian Jews, in 1984 the filmmaker and his family were forced to flee to Jerusalem via Sudan (on a 400-mile walk which gives the movie its title). Before flying to Israel as part of Operation Moses, Mekonen was kidnapped and tortured. He miraculously escaped, and was able to grow up in Israel. But there he encountered persistent skepticism about his faith, even pressure to convert, though he considers himself a Jew from birth. Now a New Yorker and married with a son, Mekonen feels emboldened to tell his story. Traveling across Africa, Israel and the United States, he talks to rabbis of Ugandan, Korean, and Latin American descent, all on a similar quest for acceptance. The filmmaker’s open curiosity safeguards the film from mawkishness, making for a refreshing meditation on identity and religion.
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