Farewell My Paradise

Farewell My Paradise marks the third installation in the series. This project tells the story of the relationship between a people and a place through the textural interplay of film, music, and choreography. It is set in a historic synagogue in Paramaribo, Suriname and in the ruins of the first settlement of Amazon Jews, known as Joden Savannen.

Farewell My Paradise portrays the story of a young  CreoleJewish woman Chaya as the as she prepares to leave the country to study abroad and is unlikely to return. Set in Suriname, South America, her elders, while encouraging the further growth of the girl, struggle with their disappointment over yet another loss to their very small and dwindling community. The story deals with conflict between generations, tradition and modernity, small versus global community.

This film will create curiosity about Suriname, a little known place that plays an important part in the story of the Jewish Diaspora. It also aims to create a historic record of the disappearing culture of the Creole Jews, hence preserving this culture; and it will garner hope in the generosity of the human spirit.

Suriname is a small country situated on the north east coast of South America. To the west is Guyana and to the east is French Guiana. A former Dutch colony, Suriname is home to the oldest Jewish community in the Americas. Jews first settled in Suriname in 1639, and many years later during World War II, additional Jewish refugees from Holland and other parts of Europe fled to Suriname. Today, approximately 200 Jews live there. Suriname also has the largest Muslim community in the New World, occupying 20% of the population. It is one of the only places in the world where you will find a synagogue situated directly next to a mosque. The Neve Shalom synagogue and the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam Mosque are located in the center of Paramaribo, the country’s capital. This sacred and dynamic location is the main setting for the film.

The inspiration for this film came from Christa’s first visit to Suriname in 1999. The purpose of the trip, made possible by a Guggenheim Fellowship for choreography, was to research “Winti”, a religion common among the African descendants in Suriname. With a deep and long-standing interest and understanding of world religions, Christa found the religious landscape of the country, as well as the synagogue and mosque proximity to be, in a word, striking. Whereas the dominant narrative of religious interactions in history tends to be one of conflict, she saw in this country, many religions in peaceful coexistence. Paramaribo, the setting of Farewell My Paradise, was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. The synagogue has stood there since 1665. This film is Christa’s artistic approach to preserve the rich cultural history of this monumental and sacred location through a dramatic film that infuses music and dance with language and image.