Feature Film Review: NAFKOT – YEARNING, 70min., Documentary

What is an anthropologist?

I’m sure most have heard of the word, but perhaps don’t know what it is, or what they do. Before writing this review I reached out to 10 random friends and asked them if they knew what an anthropologist was. Only 3 people did, as the others had no idea. I’m not saying this a perfect poll. The reason I asked this question in the first place is because it also gave me pause to what it actually was.

So here is the definition:

Anthropologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

In laymen’s terms, it’s an expert of human nature. Most anthropologists are doctors, which is the case for documentarian filmmaker Malka Shabtay, who made the amazing feature film “Nafkot -Yearning.” It makes a lot of sense for someone who studies human nature for a living to venture into documentary filmmaking. It feels like an easy transition. This is Shabtay’s 2nd film and I’m sure it’s not her last.   

“Nafkot – Yearning” is about a hidden Jewish community in north Ethiopia who tell their special story of survival. I’m sure it took a lot of time and trust for Shabtay to convince this community and their people to actually go on camera and show the world. It’s still dangerous in their country and environment to be Jewish. And that is the thematic and point of this film. What people will do to keep their culture intact. It’s the legacy of the Jewish faith and culture itself. There is something amazing and honorable about this, and when researching Malka Shabtay, this seems to be what her life’s work is all about. To make sure that people know about the Jewish culture and to make sure their rich and conflict filled history remains constant throughout mankind’s future until the last human on earth perishes.

The film follows three main heroes living in Ethiopia who also happen to be Jewish. And Shabtay is another character in the film and she’s been a visitor for the last 5 years. She’s a woman with a camera and crew in a dominate patriarchal society, and that’s another sub-theme of the film. This brilliant anthropologist pulled off the making of this film. This community and world is now documented for life for all to see. The film has played all over the world at various festivals in every Continent minus Antarctica.

“Nafkot – Yearning” is a must-see film for anyone and everyone. Bravo. 5 stars

By Eli Manning

Directed by Malka Shabtay

Watch the Audience Feedback Video from the Documentary Festival:


Short Film Review: ROE V. WADE: A NATION DIVIDED. 9min., Documentary

“Roe v Wade: A Nation Divided” is a short film, within the framework of 2022-23, that is simply gutsy. It takes an issue that is polarizing and extremely divided in the Western world and attempts to show both sides of the intensity.

In full disclosure, we contacted the owners of this website (WILDsound Corp.) about the showcase of this film at their Political Feedback Film Festival to gauge a reaction. The festival owner Matthew stated that out of over 7,000 short film screenings at their various festivals since 2007, this was the film that had the toughest time getting audiences to go on public record giving their opinions about the film. It’s an issue that people feel very strongly about and in today’s world you either are on one side or the other. Most don’t want to hear another perspective, even though it’s probably what we need to hear.

There is a segment in the first 3 minutes from the HBO show “Real Time with Bill Maher” where the host, Bill Maher, calls out the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for tweeting that abortion harms a list of groups, including the LGBTQ community, immigrants, the disabled, to name a few, but not saying that it harms women themselves. Maher says it in his usual intelligent smug way and the filmmaker chose to edit out the laughter from the audience that occurred when that segment happened live. I remember watching this episode months back. Maher’s point was that he’s pro-choice and a liberal himself, but perhaps even the side he agrees with has also gone a bit far. I don’t know the filmmaker personally, but perhaps that’s what she’s attempting to say with this film and it’s her overall theme and point.

The film starts off with a pro-choice point of view, then veers off to the pro-choice extreme after this moment in the film, and with that a pro-life point of view. Like Maher’s show, where he consistently calls out the “woke left” and their extreme takes on wanting to cancel people from the past who don’t agree with “them”, documentarian Sarah Woodward is doing a bit of the same about the levels of extreme with the pro-choice group. This reviewer, full disclosure, believes in a woman’s right to choose as it’s her body and she can do whatever she wants with it. So even I had a bit of a bias when the film veered into talking points of what an actual abortion is from a medical standpoint. The film physically shows us the elements how an abortion is done and then what they do with the dead tissues and carcasses. It’s not for the faint of heart, which is why there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the film. These are images that are not going to leave you anytime soon.

And that is the entire point of the film. It’s easy to pick a side while you sit on the sidelines. The analogy I give is that most people will agree that it’s okay to eat meat and for populations to profit from the selling of meat by killing animals in an assembly line way. I eat steak, hamburgers, hot dogs etc…, but I’m not at the meat plant seeing these animals get killed in the violent and soul-less way they do. Perhaps if I did witness it then I wouldn’t eat the meat provided for me at the everyday grocery store, or a quick UberEats scroll and click. Perhaps I would. So by showing what actually occurs when an abortion actually takes place and what they do with the undelivered baby’s carcass, it gives people context on their issue and choice. See what you believe!

This is a film that people really don’t want to see because it forces them to be accountable for their “choice”. And perhaps that’s why it’s an important film to see. Bravo to the filmmaker.

By Eli Manning

Directed by Sarah Woodward


Watch the Audience Feedback Video from the POLITICAL Festival:

Short Film of the Day (Watch): PLEASURE BOYS, 8min., UK, Documentary

Directed by Elliott Watson

Rippling muscles, screaming crowds and non-stop attention. Is it ego or alter-ego that defines ‘The Pleasure Boys’ strip group? Exploring the motives and sacrifices of four male strippers, this documentary challenges masculinity as a construct in the modern world.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Watch Film:

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

Film Review: 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Documentary) **** Highly Recommended

Oscar nominated shorts will be screened at the Bell Lightbox from now (Feb 8th) till Oscar Presentation Day – on February the 24th.  There are 3 categories – animated; live action and live action documentary.

Watching shorts is a real treat and less tiring than watching a full length feature. Plus, not knowing what these shorts are about, one will surely be in for a nice surprise as well.

One thing about this program of shorts is that they are true stories about life and hardships.  The subjects of these docs are as different as night and day and range from the U.K. to India and Africa.  These are docs are both educational and entertaining and most will leave one teary-eyed as well.  Total length of program around 140 minutes.

BLACK SHEEP (USA 2018) ****
Directed by Ed Perkins

This gut-gut-wrenching emotional shocker has my vote for best doc short.  It all begins for rather innocently for a black kid Damilola Taylor returning from school.  A 10-year old school Nigerian boy has just been murdered in his neighbourhood.  Camilla finds his mother crying when he got home  The family move out of London (from Peckham to Essex) only for Damilola to find matters worse – in terms or racism in his new neighbourhood of all whites.  His first encounter is a young boy calling him nigger.  I understand and feel for Camilla as I experienced the same thing while in Ireland while walking when kids in a car made slanted eye faces at me.  The short works as what transpires is real and the enactment is terribly effective.  One can never predict how the narrative of the short will lead to making it even more intriguing.

END GAME (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Rob Epstien and Jeffrey Friedman

This doc follows medical practitioners and several patients as the patients live their last years of their lives.  The staff try their utmost best to make the patients comfortable and their last days meaningful., thus encouraging the audience to re-evaluate their own lives in the light of what is happening.  Many of the subjects in the film have now passed away.  END GAME is a very sad and needless to say, emotional film about life and death.

LIFEBOAT (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Skye Fitzgerald

This well intentioned short has the aim of informing audiences of the plight of refugees as they risk their lives for a better life.  The film has many disturbing scenes such as overcrowded raft lifeboats filled with refugees with their legs dangling over the side.  They have nowhere to do their business.  Many are sick with fever.  Many die  The short begins with  a search of dead bodies on a beach.  The film follows volunteers from a German non-profit organization as they risk the waves of the Mediterranean to pluck refugees from sinking rafts pushing off from Libya in the middle of the night.  LIFEBOAT puts a human face on one of the world’s greatest contemporary global crises and provides a spark of hope surrounding how civil society can intervene in the refugee crisis in a meaningful way.  Unfortunately, the narrative is fragmented resulting in the film seeming all over the place.  Still LIFEBOAT is quite the eye-opener.  This one will likely win the Oscar because its theme is the most current.


Directed by Marshall Curry

This is a short, black and white short doc that is no less disturbing for its theme.  Assembled from archive footage, A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN  details a ‘German-American Bund’ rally held at the Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939.  American Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn speaks to the gathered crowd when one man, 26-year-old Isadore Greenbaum, rushes the stage to protest the gathered National socialists.  What happens to Greenbaum is gut shattering.


Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi

This feminist (in such a good way that it will leave even the males cheering the women) short starts of on the ignorance of Indians on menstruation and slides from topic to topic ending with the manufacturing of women’s pads.  The film centres o a few Indian women from a rural village outies Delhi, India who strive to do more as women.  One wants to join the police force.  Others make, sell and market women’s pads.  This is the lightest of all the documentary shorts but no less educational, informative and entertaining.

Movie Review: BEYOND THE WALL, USA, Documentary

This twenty-six minute documentary coming out of the USA by directors Jay Root and Todd Wiseman, BEYOND THE WALL takes a three-part look at the political crackdown on illegal immigrants and border crossings. Remarkably informative and incredibly educational and in depth for a film in only twenty-six minutes, BEYOND THE WALL breaks down the incredibly complex social and political platform of illegal immigration quickly and effectively. From explaining the social pulls like gangs and crime violence in Central America, to the drug smuggling supply and demand chain in North America, to the corporate desire for cheap, unregulated, undocumented labor in the North American employment sectors, we see how ingrained and complex the situation is really is.


BEYOND THE WALL must be highly commended for its research- it does its due diligence in researching many sides of the issue. It follows families fleeing gang violence, speaks to officials and police officers on the ground zero of Central American gang violence, talks to American ranchers who watch undocumented immigrants cross the border, and speaks to people in process of getting their documentation for citizenship, who have been exploited by the demand for undocumented laborers. A meaningful and impactful look at the gravity behind a hot-bed political issue, this is a film that goes beneath the surface and takes a look at the deeper issues that exist.


Watch BEYOND THE WALL. It is a film that will inform you, regardless of your political affiliation. For education alone it is a v

BEYOND THE WALL, 26min., USA, Documentary
Directed by Jay Root, Todd Wiseman

Get past the rhetoric and experience the reality of the U.S.-Mexico border. The film puts viewers into the shoes of undocumented immigrants, Border Patrol agents and a Texas borderland rancher to explore the nation’s most pressing border and immigration issues.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!


Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:



Movie Review: HEARING FILMS, Canada, Documentary

HEARING FILMS a eight minute documentary coming to us from Toronto Canada, by director Arsen Martyrosian, is a film following one man and his life-long love of movies, despite his visual impairment. Losing his vision early in childhood, Joe remains a movie fan, relying on descriptive video to experience his films the way one might experience an audio book. HEARING FILMS reminds us that we are all able.


One of the best things about HEARING FILMS, other than the excellent production quality and the loveable hero- is the reminder that cinema is for everyone. It is not exclusive to people who can see. As our hero recounts to us, films make him feel joy, feel happy, feel sad- he is not denied the emotional experience, simply because he hears the story instead of seeing it. A film the reminds us of the ability in everyone, and the resilience of those in the face of adversity, HEARING FILMS is a bright, upbeat story about an incredible man with an incredible passion for movies.


Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

HEARING FILMS, 8min., Canada, Documentary 
Directed by Arsen Martyrosian

A story of visually impaired film enthusiast Joe Sidarose, that questions the perception of film as a visual medium and exposes the way descriptive cinema influences audience.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Movie Review: HAART KENYA, Kenya, Documentary

Stunningly beautiful, filled with a rich tapestry of color and textures, HAART KENYA is as visually moving as it is emotionally engaging and educationally necessary. This Kenyan film from director Danielle Da Silva is a work following HAART Kenya- an organization dedicated to helping support and rehabilitate women and children involved in the human trafficking trades in Kenya and East Africa. We follow two main stories of women who were victims of human trafficking, as well as hearing from the professionals at HAART who work on the front lines. Pairing with Photographers Without Borders, this film documents the struggles and pains that follow victims of human trafficking, and the treatment and support HAART can provide them.


HAART KENYA is not a depressing film. On the contrary, it is alright with hope. It is bright with the triumph and resilience of the human spirit. A film that fills your heart with anguish, but also with happiness. At the other side of surviving is thriving- HAART KENYA reminds us that we are not defined by are our tragedies- we are defined by what we are in spite of them. A beautiful film with a beautiful message, it is a documentary not to miss.

Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

HAART KENYA, 13min., Kenya, Documentary
Directed by Danielle Da Silva

An organization dedicated to ending modern slavery (human trafficking) against women and children in Kenya and East Africa. Simas spent two weeks photographing their workshops, community, and grief-stricken survival stories.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Movie Review: ISIS WAS HERE, Iraq, Documentary

ISIS WAS HERE is a harrowing and dramatic documentary from Iraq, chronically the destructive force of ISIS and its path through one Iraq town of Qayyarah. Director Abdalrahman Karm takes a front-lines approach to the piece- putting the camera (and us) at the ground zero of tragedy.


We never find out entirely how ISIS gains control of the town, but we are able to follow the wreckage left behind their abandoned 2014 occupation- including their take-over of the local hospital, their isolation of students from schools, and their simultaneously systematic and senseless torture of the residents. We follow family after family touched by violence, death, destruction and horrendous acts of cruelty.  


What ISIS WAS HERE is able to translate is the loss of humanity brought about by terror and war. A film as raw and emotionally evocative as possible, it will remind you that behind headlines in newspapers, and behind statistics, there are human beings. Humans who feel love and loss and pain. ISIS WAS HERE is an important film and one that is not always easy to watch- but not everything important is easy to see. Nevertheless ISIS WAS HERE is a film to see.

Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

ISIS WAS HERE, 25min, Iraq, Documentary 
Directed by Farman Abdalrahman Karim 

In 2014 the ISIS controlled Qayyarah Town, It Is near from the Mousll City in north Iraq. In 27 Aug 2016 Iraqi Army freedom the Qayyarah Town, after that every one Shocked when they see the tragedy stories in Qayyarah

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Movie Review: WEEKEND WARRIOR, USA, Documentary

WEEKEND WARRIOR, a six minute documentary hailing from the USA by director Jonathan Harris follows Trey Bowen, a young daredevil with a passion for four-wheeling. Gentle and down to earth, at first glance Trey might not seem the type to strap himself into a massive machines and go airborne at forty miles an hour. But he is. WEEKEND WARRIOR tells the story of Trey, and his life-long pursuit of his great passion- four wheeling tricks. From creating a massive foam pit to ride his bike into, to building ramps to jump off of, there is nothing less than a labour of love that propels our hero to his end goal- to do a trick that only twelve people have done before- a full mid air flip.


What is most engaging about this piece is that it reminds us all that talent is rarely innately born into us. Talent is the product of commitment and passion. Goals, like anything worth having in life- is hard work. Trey is true to the films name- he is a weekend warrior. Something so many of those working a 9-5 must become to live their dreams. The thing that cannot be denied about Trey and his story is his infectious happiness and effortless joy. It is both enviable and inspiring to watch Trey achieve is dreams.


A film that boasts gorgeous cinematography and tells a feel good story for all ages, WEEKEND WARRIOR is a film for all who dare to dream.


Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

WEEKEND WARRIOR, 6min., USA, Documentary
Directed by Jonathan Harris

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Movie Review: WATER, USA, Documentary

A four minute film about the beauty of the natural world, WATER, directed by Mark Knight, has no voice over, no words, and no people in it. Our main character is water- it’s transformative nature and its raw power. From towering icebergs to roaring waterfalls to utterly still glassy swamps- WATER takes your across the tapestries of the natural world quickly with effortlessness and ease.


Awesome in its scope and spectrum, and inspiring in its simplicity, this film is an homage to the wonder of the natural vistas of the planet. It will remind us that we are all, so often guilty of the greatest folly of humanity- we walk upon the earth as though we own it. WATER will remind you that we are far from the most powerful force on the planet.


Review by Kierston Drier

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of the Short Film:

WATER, 4min, USA, Documentary
Directed by Mark Knight

Window Channel Network takes you on a four-minute journey to some of the planet’s most spectacular glaciers, waterfalls, beaches, rivers and waterways. Destinations include, Iceland, Igauzu Falls Brazil, Atchafalaya Basin Louisiana, Lake Tahoe California, Black Canyon of the Gunnison Colorado, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Music score Wieland Reisssmann by Peter Simmer.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!