Rudy Rochman
Rudy RochmanBy PR

Three Israeli filmmakers in Nigeria shooting a documentary in the southeast region were arrested last week, accused by the government of having been in contact with a separatist group.

Rudy Rochman, Andrew (Noam) Leibman and Edouard David Benaym were in Nigeria filming “We Were Never Lost,” a documentary about Jewish communities in African countries, including Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Nigeria.

According to media reports, they had been in Nigeria since July 6. They were detained by the Nigerian Department of State Serive (DSS) on July 9.

Rochman is well known as a pro-Israel social media influencer, with a popular youtube channel and 95,000 followers on Instagram.

The families of the detained filmmakers stressed that there was no political intent behind the filmmakers’ presence in Nigeria.

In a statement they said that the three were in Nigeria as part of a “documentary filmmaking effort to expose the lives and customs of Jewish communities around the world” that is “designed to educate viewers about the religious and cultural experiences of lesser-known Jewish communities. Their goal is to interview members of Jewish communities across multiple African countries, along with jewish communities in China, India, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”

They had selected Nigeria as their first filmmaking destination because it has a stable political and economic environment and “the infrastructure would allow the film crew to travel efficiently to various cities throughout the country.”

The families of the filmmakers reiterated that “this documentary is not intended to make any political statements about the countries where filming will take place, nor does the filmmaking team endorse any political movements. The team is simply there to observe the communities (and) learn about their experiences with Judaism.”

They added, “The filmmaking crew acts as a guest visiting the country and its various communities – there are no political overtones.”

The filmmakers felt it would be a “good deed” to gift a Torah to the Igbo Jewish community but “unfortunately, members of non-state political groups have hijacked for their own purposes the images of the filmmakers gifting a Torah to the community.”

The families of the filmmakers said that they are working with the US, Israeli and French embassies to secure the release of the three men. They noted that the filmmaking crew had been held in “harsh detainment conditions” but through efforts of the embassies their conditions have improved.

“We hope that the DSS will quickly conclude what the facts support – that the filmmaking team has no political motives and that the team should be released from custody immediately,” they said.

On July 8, the “We Were Never Lost” Facebook page was updated to say, “We do not take any position on political movements as we are not here as politicians nor as a part of any governmental delegations.”