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Peebles graduate Arey has documentary film premiering in Cincinnati Film Festival

Blue like Me, a film documentary by Ryan Arey and Hal Rifken, will premiere at the 2015 Cincinnati Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 19 on the Showboat Majestic.

“We’ve been invited to screen the film in India, New York, and Washington D.C., But I’m especially proud to bring it back to Ohio,” said Arey, a Peebles native.

The film is a documentary profiling the life and work of Siona Benjamin, an Indian artist of Jewish origin.

A 20-year resident of New Jersey, Benjamin was born and raised in Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay) in a community that was primarily Hindu and Muslim.

She was part of a unique sect of Indian Jews called “Bene Israel”.

The story of India’s Bene Israel tribe goes back 2000 years. A small group of Jews fled persecution in their homeland and were shipwrecked on the Western shores of India.

Over the next two millennia they adopted many Indian customs and became a distinct part of India’s cultural heritage.

At one point there were as many as 50,000 Bene Israel living in Mumbai, but that number has shrank to less than 5,000 because of the community’s migration to Israel.

Benjamin’s own family migrated when she was a child. As a result much of her work reflects the themes of being without a home or returning home. She has done a whole series of paintings called “Finding Home.”

Her work draws from many different artistic traditions, past and present.

She uses traditional Indian iconography blended with western pop culture and comic styled illustrations to create a uniquely personal art form.

Benjamin paints all of her figures blue because, in her words, “The color blue has become a symbol of being a Jewish woman of color.”

Arey expands on that idea, “Identity is both lost and found behind color (and race). We don’t share the same face, but we share the same planet. And that planet is blue”

The documentary was filmed in Mumbai in 2013 and completed this year in New York City. Trailers for the documentary appeared on the Kick Starter web site and financing for the film was received through Crowd-Funded donations.

Arey is a 1998 graduate of Peebles High School. He lives in New York City with his wife, Victoria.

Ryan Arey, a 1998 graduate of Peebles High School, has helped produce a film documentary that premieres on Sept. 19 at the Cincinnati Film Festival. Arey, a 1998 graduate of Peebles High School, has helped produce a film documentary that premieres on Sept. 19 at the Cincinnati Film Festival. Submitted photo

“Blue Like Me” tells the story of artist Siona Benjamin, profiling her art and work.“Blue Like Me” tells the story of artist Siona Benjamin, profiling her art and work. Submitted photo

By Patricia Beech

Reach Patricia Beech at 937-544-2391 or

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