The title may seem timely, but Forget Baghdad: Jews and Arabs—The Iraqi Connection has little to do with the city currently under beleaguered U.S. occupation. Made by a Baghdad-born Swiss filmmaker and shot mostly in Israel and New York, this personal documentary is a sharp, nimble essay on the cultural loss that occurred when Israel was founded and the Mizrahim, the Jews of the Arab world, jumped—or were pushed—to the new country. As he explains in a preamble illustrated with impressionistic shots of Zurich’s airport, the single-named Samir originally went looking for some of his father’s old comrades, Iraqi Jews who were active in Baghdad’s Communist party. He didn’t find any, but in Israel he did locate noted authors Shimon Ballas and Samir Naqqash and two other Jewish Iraqi expatriates who were Communists when their former homeland was still under British rule. To these old men’s commentary, the writer-director adds the younger voice of film scholar Ella Shohat, an Israeli of Iraqi descent. Shohat now lives in Brooklyn, where her parents have joined her; they feel more comfortable there than in Israel, where European Zionists (or Ashkenazim) comprise the bulk of the ruling class. Samir himself is a Muslim, but religion isn’t the film’s central issue. According to several of the exiles, Iraqis weren’t especially religious, anyway: Before 1948, Jews, Christians, and Muslims mixed easily in Baghdad. (Of course, the interviewees are intellectuals and former Communists, hardly the sectarian type.) The Ashkenazim aren’t exactly villains in this account, which handles contentious issues with an agreeably light touch. Although Samir includes scenes from Israeli films that caricature Mizrahim, a theme explicated by Shohat, he also includes clips from Egyptian musicals, Hollywood films that feature Arab stereotypes, and hilariously self-congratulatory old U.K. newsreels that extol the Brits’ supposed altruism in Iraq and Israel. Emulating Godard’s video work, the documentary uses dissolves, split screens, superimpositions, and floating key words to suggest the complexity of the story it’s telling. In fact, the film’s visual motifs suggest the metaphor that one interviewee offers for his Iraqi-Israeli identity: baklava. Yet while Forget Baghdad is densely layered, it’s more savory than sweet. —Mark Jenkins