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Carlos DeMedeiros, one of the people interviewed in "Children of the Inquisition," grew up in a Catholic family in Rio de Janeiro and became a seminarian. The discovery of his Jewish roots from the time of the Inquisition led him to better understand the conflicts of his own relationship with the church. Photo courtesy "Children of the Inquisition."

WESTERLY — Hilary Klotz Steinman traveled around the world and spent three years working on a film that will premiere in Providence on Sunday during Flickers' 23rd annual Rhode Island International Film Festival.

The film, "Children of the Inquisition," is about descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions and their quest to determine and embrace their Sephardic Jewish heritage. Klotz, a Westerly native and producer of the film, said Friday that the production has deep Rhode Island roots.

"It's genesis is in Rhode Island," said Klotz, a daughter of the late Nancy and Paul Klotz. "The director first heard the story about the Inquisition from his rabbi when he was a child."

The director, Joseph Lovett, is a Providence native, graduate of Moses Brown School, and Peabody award winner. He learned of the Inquisition in 1958, when Rabbi William Braude of Temple Beth El in Providence gave a sermon, "Todos Catolicos — Everyone is Catholic," about Spanish Catholic families who had been converted from Judaism in the years before and during the Inquisition.

He was fascinated that something that happened 500 years ago could still affect people today, said Klotz.

"And, our main expert, David Gitlitz, is a professor emeritus of Hispanic studies at URI," added Klotz. "David is an author and an expert on Inquisition records."

"It's a real Rhode Island triangle," said Klotz, who traveled from Spain to Brazil during the filming. "I am so excited that it will have its premiere here ... and in Metcalf Auditorium."

Gitlitz joined Klotz and Lovett in Segovia, Madrid, and Toledo, where they traced the family of New York Times journalist Doreen Carvajal back to the first converts in the mid 1300s. From Inquisition testimony, they learned that Carvajal's 16th great-grandfather, who was the finance minister to King Enrique IV of Castille, navigated a dual identity as a prominent Catholic nobleman who practiced Jewish rituals and prayers in the privacy of his home.

They also interviewed Carlos DeMedeiros, who grew up in a Catholic family in Rio de Janeiro and became a seminarian. The discovery of his Jewish roots led him to a better understanding of the conflicts of his own relationship with the church. 

"With the migrations from Spain to Portugal, to Italy and then to Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and the New World," she said, "'Children of the Inquisition' could hold some clues for Rhode Islanders’ family journeys."

Rabbi Braude's son, Benjamin, an author and Boston College history professor, was also interviewed, for his expertise on the Ottoman Empire, Klotz said.

Klotz described the production as "character driven," one that takes viewers on a 500-year trek across continents, oceans and political landscapes and follows a diverse international cast as they search to discover what happened to their Spanish and Portuguese ancestors as they were pressured to convert or flee.

The film also follows more "openly Catholic and inwardly Jewish" families from Portugal to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the United States, and from Spain and Portugal to Mexico to the American Southwest, Klotz said.

This will be the second of Klotz's films to premiere at Flickers. In 2017, her film, "Death by Design," about electronic devices, the secretive Chinese factories where they are made, and their deadly environmental and health costs, premiered at Flickers.

Klotz said she hopes Westerly people will attend the premiere. "We are hoping for a good turnout," she said.

More information about "Children of the Inquisition" and a trailer is available at childrenoftheinquisition.com

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com

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