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: