Ladino: 500 Years Young (2006)
Directed by Mira Jedwabnik Van Doren, 60 minutes
Since their expulsion from Spain in 1492, generations of Sephardic Jews succeeded in maintaining the Ladino language, a hybrid of Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish and Greek. Like its Eastern European counterpart Yiddish, Ladino is not merely a language but a culture, kept alive in part by a rich musical tradition of songs and melodies. But today's descendants of Ladino speakers are fast losing touch with Ladino; even in Israel, where approximately 200,000 people still speak or understand some Ladino, this rich and beautiful culture is in danger of becoming extinct. Ladino: 500 Years Young profiles 29-year-old Israeli singing phenom (and 2006 Ashkenaz Festival headliner) Yasmin Levy, as she follows in the footsteps of her father, Yitzhak Levy, a revered singer who dedicated his life to recording and documenting the Ladino musical culture. Since her father died when she was only one, Levy knows him only through his songs, but she has taken it upon herself to immortalize and disseminate the musical legacy that he helped preserve. She also wants to modernize Ladino music with the infusion of Flamenco and contemporary Israeli/Arabic influences, an innovation that does not necessarily sit well with the older guardians of the language and music. Ladino: 500 Years Young traces a year in the life of Yasmin Levy as her career burgeons from humble beginnings to international fame and fortune.