Vivienne Roumani has a background as a librarian (Johns Hopkins, Library of Congress, UC Berkeley), oral historian, and non-profit executive. She has directed two documentaries that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, published many articles, appeared frequently as a speaker, and established a consultancy for staff and organizational development. Vivienne speaks on the subjects addressed in her documentaries and writings: the transition to the digital world, and the history and culture of Sephardic Jews, including Libya.
Out of Print, narrated by Oscar winner Meryl Streep, explores the extraordinary transformation from the preeminence of the written word to the digital age and its effect on how we learn and live. The documentary features interviews with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Authors Guild President Scott Turow, the late Ray Bradbury, Historian and Harvard University Librarian Robert Darnton, Open Road Integrated Media CEO Jane Friedman, and other leaders in tech, publishing, libraries, education, and cognitive science. Out of Print received several awards and screened worldwide, including screenings on U.S. PBS stations.
Best Documentary Feature, New Hope Film Festival, 2013
Top Honors, Grand Jury Documentary Category, deadCenter Film Festival, 2013
Bronze Plaque, Humanities, Columbus International Film + Video Festival, 2013
The Last Jews of Libya, narrated by Isabella Rossellini, documents the final decades of a centuries-old North African Jewish community through the lives of the Roumani family of Benghazi. Over thirty-six thousand Jews survived the hardships of living under fascist rule and internment during the battles of World War II in Libya. Pogroms and the rise of Arab nationalism after the War led 90% of Libya’s Jews to leave between 1949-1951. The last remaining Jews were forced to flee in 1967. Based on the recently discovered memoir of the family’s matriarch, Elise Roumani, on interviews in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, French, and English, and a trove of rare archival film and photographs, The Last Jews of Libya is an unforgettable tale of tradition, adaptation, war, survival, and exile.
Vivienne frequently follows screenings of the Last Jews of Libya with discussions about 20th Century Jewish life in Libya and the subsequent lives of the Jewish refugees in Italy, Israel, and elsewhere. She has maintained contacts with western diplomats and Arab Libyans, enabling her to connect the past with the present. Vivienne also gives talks on the subject that use clips from the film and oral histories.
Sephardi Jews are those whose ancestors lived in Spain and Portugal prior to the expulsion in the 15th Century. The term is generally used more broadly, however, to include Jews whose origins are in North Africa and the Middle East (“Mizrachi”), who share much liturgy and many traditions with those from Spain and Portugal.
As the Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation, Vivienne created the Sephardic library, archives, and gallery at New York’s Center for Jewish History, personally curating the opening gallery loan exhibition. Her previous positions at the UC Berkeley Library included managing and curating the Judaica collection. Vivienne has collaborated with Gerard Edery to create multi-media programs of music, dance, and digital visuals celebrating the Sephardic experience. Her oral histories, housed in the Library of Congress and the National Library of Israel, form the basis of several forthcoming book chapters. She continues to write and lecture widely on various aspects of Sephardi culture and history.
Vivienne is a self-taught documentary filmmaker whose work has twice premiered at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. Isabella Rossellini and Meryl Streep narrated the documentaries, and Vivienne has had the opportunity to film interviews with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury, and many others from a large variety of professions and backgrounds. While documentaries are her passion, she also produced the short Thanks and provided translation for Dîner en Blanc. Student filmmakers and general filmgoers have enjoyed discussing her experiences as a filmmaker, especially the issues involved in conceiving the project and identifying and accessing the people who make a documentary project successful.