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About Sugarcane and Homecoming

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About Sugarcane and Homecoming

(Doc., 54 Min., 2008, DVD/BETA, Color)
  • Written & Directed by: Shaul Kesslassi
  • Produced by: Nefesh Productions, The Netherlands
  • Language: Portuguese with English subtitles


“About Sugarcane and Homecoming” tells the story of a growing number of people in the North Eastern part of Brazil, on a quest for identity and faith. People born into Catholicism who are claiming they are a part of Judaism. They congregate and create a community that is becoming a sub culture of Judaism. A Jewish community that follows traditional Jewish religion and rites, practices Jewish family and communal life, but is not recognized by the Jewish establishment worldwide. They all hold the conviction that they are descendants of Jews forced to convert to Catholicism after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and the forced conversion in Portugal. In 1497, the Jews of Portugal were forced to convert to Catholicism. They were called “New Christians”. Many of these “New Christians” found Refugee in Brazil far from the inquisition and started the sugar trade. Some of them continued to practice the Jewish faith in secret. They were pejoratively called “Marranos” (pigs). It is the belief, confirmed by many scholars and researchers, that in times of darkness, intolerance, suppression and horror, those Marranos led a clandestine life as Catholics in public and Jews in secret. Generations later, these communities gradually assimilated but never disappeared. The phenomenon became known as Crypto Judaism. Today, Communities of Crypto Jews can be found in Spain and Portugal and in great numbers in northeast Brazil (a former Portuguese colony). Many of their customs (not eating pork, draining the blood from meat, burial in plain ground without a coffin, laying stones on grave marks and marriage within the family) are different from the average Catholic communities in the area and believed to derive from Judaism. With a conviction based on family customs, Inquisition documents, historical facts and biblical prophecies we follow these main characters taking on the process called “Return to Judaism”, a long and bumpy ride to the “promised land”, facing personal and family conflicts, cynicism, frustration and a very uninterested Jewish establishment.



  • Finchley Synagogue, UK, 2009
  • NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, Israel, 2008
  • Amsterdam Jewish Film Festival, The Netherlands, 2008
  • Religion Today Festival, Italy, 2008


  • Columbia University
  • University of Florida
  • Library of Congress
  • Duke University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • Temple Sinai Library, USA
  • Stonehill College
  • AJS Conference, 2008
  • Maryland University
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