At only 41, Joann Sfar has enjoyed a meteoric rise in France, rocketing from cartoonist to filmmaker in short succession.
Sephardi on his father’s side and Ashkenazi on his mother’s, Sfar created “The Rabbi’s Cat” graphic novels beginning in 2005— critical darlings, steeped in Jewish Algerian-French lore, yet somehow striking a universal chord among comic-book connoisseurs worldwide.
Now, for one week only, the animated feature “The Rabbi’s Cat” is screening at select Laemmle theaters and the Downtown Independent in its native French.
Set in 1930s Algeria, the original “Rabbi’s Cat” comic book featured a cat belonging to the widowed rabbi and his daughter. After the cat kills and devours the family parrot, he gains the ability to speak, and the rabbi sets out to teach him Torah and prepare him for his bar mitzvah. Meanwhile, Zlabya falls for and marries a charming Parisian rabbi, and her father and cat sojourn to meet Zlabya’s Parisian in-laws. In the sequel, the rabbi, his cat, the rabbi’s Koran-thumping sheikh cousin and a Russian-Jewish painter (rather symoblically) journey in search of an African Jerusalem.
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