Consider that one of the earliest reggae songs was called “The Israelites,” or that Rastafarians and Orthodox Jews take cues from identical passages of the Bible on matters of faith, prayer and dietary and sexual ethics. Or that the concept of Zion—a longing for repatriation—is deeply embedded in both cultures. Traveling from Jamaica to Jerusalem, and featuring appearances from Sister Carol and Matisyahu, Awake Zion explores why the Star of David spoke to both Maimonides and Marley and how it came to be that the Exodus was a movement of both the Jews and “Jah People.” Director Monica Haim searches for common roots in an effort to better understand her own. She travels around the globe and through time weaving together the perspectives and experiences of Jews and Rastafarians, scholars and ska artists, rabbis and reggae stars. Speaking powerfully to the history, spirituality and humanity shared by these two peoples, Awake Zion takes us back to the days of King Solomon to explore and uncover the connections between davening and the dance hall, payos and dreadlocks. Most entertainingly, Awake Zion features a rock steady soundtrack celebrating the rhythms of Burning Spear, Dr. Israel, Rocker T and Ex-Centric Sound System.
Writer, Director & Producer: Awake Zion
Monica recently completed a master's degree in cultural journalism at the Gallatin School at NYU. She received a BFA in Acting from the Tisch School of Arts, also at NYU. The idea for Awake Zion was the result of many years of Hebrew school and a deep-seated relationship with music. Her recent studies in ethnomusicology, music criticism, arts and social worlds reporting provided a forum where she could explore the ideas for the project with perspective from various disciplines, creative and academic. Throughout the making of the film, Monica has immersed herself in the culture of the music, following Jewish and non-Jewish reggae musicians and enthusiasts from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to New York, New Jersey, Newton, Los Angeles, Israel and Jamaica, on a continued exploration of this unlikely cultural link.
In 2004 Monica founded Twin Goat Productions, a company specializing in slice-of-life documentary projects. Upcoming projects include Meeting Me, a documentary that will explore the meaning of family through the prism of adoption; Yeah-Yeah, another music-driven piece about the underground legacy of Afrobeat music; and ECO, a documentary about perma-culture and modern organic life, as experienced through various self-sustained global villages. Two years ago Monica was published in an anthology, 9/11 8:48am: Documenting America's Worst Tragedy (Blue Ear Press, 2001), and her essay was adapted for the London theatrical premiere, Voices from September 11th, which ran at the Old Vic on September 11th 2002. Monica freelances as an associate producer for KPI TV, a documentary production company in New York. She has previously freelanced editorially for Time Out New York and Nylon, and worked as a public relations executive in Manhattan and San Francisco for three years. Awake Zion is Monica's directorial debut.