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A Sephardic Journey: Solly Lévy... From Morocco to Montréal

Director's Diary - Don Winkler
on "A Sephardic Journey - - Solly LÚvy ... From Morocco to MontrÚal"

Documentary filmmaking is my continuing education. Each project gives me a privileged access to new worlds, and to human beings who embody, through their life experience and their casts of mind, new ways of looking at the world. New, that is, to me. And A Sephardic Journey was no exception.

I'm Jewish, but I am not a Sephardic Jew. And when I first got the idea of doing a film about a member of the Sephardic community in Montreal, I consulted a friend from that community, and asked her for suggestions. She had one, and one only. "Solly LÚvy," she said. "You must do a film on Solly LÚvy. He first introduced me to Quebec culture, even though I had been here much longer than he had himself, and I've never forgotten that." Solly had been her teacher in her last year of high school, and although he had only just arrived on these shores, it was he who first forged the links, for her, between her own community and the dominant culture that surrounded it. And he did it through the medium of literature.

Solly grew up in Tangiers, a richly international, and multicultural city. And it was that facet of Montreal that attracted him, and that he set out to cultivate and enhance - through teaching, and through his work in high school and community theatre. An intense, tireless, and demanding personality with a hearty sense of humour, he plunged into our filmic adventure with all the uncompromising dedication with which he approaches every other aspect of his life.

And by embodying one cardinal virtue, he became my teacher as well. For Solly is gifted with a passion for community - not the sort of passion that is inward-looking and protective, but one that is generous, and thrives on interaction and exchange. He has dedicated his life to teaching immigrant children about the culture that surrounds them, on making visible his own culture to those with which it rubs shoulders, and in staging theatrical productions that proclaim the common humanity that transcends different customs, languages, and religions. And all this not simply out of principle, not in the spirit of political correctness, but because it represents something central to his life.

And so, as sometimes happens, a film subject has become a mentor, an exemplar, and a friend. And my only hope is that the film itself be a worthy reflection of all that.

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