"Highly recommended. In 1896, Romanian-born Cambridge University professor Solomon Schechter came upon an extraordinary discovery: a vast storage room (geniza) containing sacred ancient religious texts, manuscripts, and letters within a rundown Cairo synagogue. Filmmaker Michelle Paymar’s documentary details how Schechter located this amazing treasure trove, which included many original documents handwritten by the influential physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides, as well as more commonplace correspondence and lists that detailed the ebb and flow of life in medieval Egypt during a period when Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities existed in peaceful cooperation. While many of the documents were intact, countless others existed in fragmentary states and required endless hours to piece together and decipher (written in Arabic, Greek, and other languages using Hebrew letters). The film also chronicles ongoing efforts to digitize the documents found in Cairo and make them available to scholars studying the history of Egypt’s Jewish community. While the subject matter is scholarly, Paymar presents this material in a user-friendly manner that places old Cairo, Schechter's 19th -century academic world, and contemporary historical research into fascinating context."
“Michelle Paymar’s brilliantly conceived and executed film will captivate the general public while being of special interest to academic Jewish studies, especially Jewish history and culture; to those interested in Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages; to material culture and literacy; to the history of medicine and magic; to medieval Islamic administration; and, finally, to the application of computer technology to confronting the challenge of reconstructing these torn manuscripts, dispersed today in some seventy collections around the world.”
Mark R. Cohen Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Emeritus Princeton University
“Tales of adventure and discovery by pioneering women and radical rabbis; Victorian photos and early movie scenes, together with modern animations and visual effects; rare, revealing and crumbling texts from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. This remarkable new film combines such spicy content with the views of learned historians, expert curators, innovative programmers and contemporary novelists from across the globe.
[From Cairo to the Cloud] brings viewers a lively, deeply informed introductions to one of the world's most astonishing collections of documents about the Middle East.”
Professor Stefan C. Reif Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge
“The first fully comprehensive film to examine the whole history of one of the world’s most remarkable, but least known, collections…Paymar has brought together all the leading scholars and figures in the field to examine the history of its discovery and expose the importance of its manuscripts.
Sumptuously shot, through site visits, interviews with scholars, librarians and authors, and through the words of the medieval texts themselves…Students of history are increasingly getting their facts through videos and podcasts, and Paymar has produced an ideal experience for them here: a documentary on perhaps the most important archive of the Middle Ages with high production values and unquestionable authority.”
Dr Benjamin Outhwaite, Head of Asian and African Collections & Genizah Research Unit Cambridge University Library
Michelle Paymar’s fascinating documentary, From Cairo to the Cloud, tells the extraordinary story of the discovery and significance of the Cairo Genizah, the largest cache of ancient Jewish texts yet discovered, which spans a thousand years of history. It is a story of archaeological discovery and of social history, of religious belief and humanism, of outsiders and pioneers, and at its heart, people…
Paymar brings all this to life with some crisp editing and a well-paced narrative that takes us from Victorian Cambridge right into the 21st century, where the power of the internet brings together the fragments from the Cairo Genizah which were scattered across the globe. It is meticulously researched, with a cast of engaging experts who enlighten and entertain this extraordinary story. Anyone with a passing interest in history will find all this enthralling. As one expert in the film points out, “It is like looking back at that time through the memory of God”. If that is not enough to pique an interest, I don’t know what is.
Cambridge Film Festival Reviews, Nick Kitchin