Sevap/Mitzvah | Film Threat
Mar 30, 2023
A Muslim woman puts her family at great risk to save the life of her Jewish friend in writer-director Sabina Vajraca’s short film, Sevap/Mitzvah.
Inspired by true events, Sevap/Mitzvah takes place in Nazi-occupied Bosnia during World War II. Zejneba (Helena Vukovic) is reading the story of Queen Esther to her daughter. The book was given to Zejneba by her longtime Jewish friend, Rifka (Magdalena Zivalic Tadic). Unfortunately, Zejneba’s sister-in-Law Bahra (Sanela Krsmanovic) is displeased that a Jewish book is in the family home and insists that it be removed immediately.
While running errands, Zejneba sees the Nazis rounding up all the Jews and loading them into trucks. Zejneba sees Rifka walking toward her, so she grabs her friend, covers the Jewish armband, and walks home for safety. Once there, Bahra tells Zejneba that she’s put their family in danger for hiding a Jew, but she makes a final plea to her husband, Mustafa (Adnan Haskovic), to hide Rifka and her family.
“…Bahra tells Zejneba that she’s put their family in danger for hiding a Jew…”
Sevap/Mitzvah was filmed in Bosnia with help from a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Though not exactly Spielberg money, the filmmaker does incredible work with what she’s given. She makes a small street of German activity feel large and adds enough production value to make the low-budget stretch.
The performances stand out. Vukovic carries the film. Haskovic gives a particularly stirring speech as the man who stands by his wife’s actions. The bravery of real-life Zejneba and Mustafa would play an important part in their lives fifty years later during the Bosnian/Serbian war.
Just when you thought you had heard all the stories of bravery stemming from the Holocaust, you realize there are still many more to be told. The obvious twist here is a Muslim family giving safe harbor to a Jewish family at their own risk. Sabina Vajraca’s Sevap/Mitzvah not only shows Zejneba’s bravery during an intense situation but the justification of her Islamic faith to do so.
For screening information, visit the Sevap/Mitzvah official website.
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