Jeff L. Lieberman’s documentary travels to southeast Nigeria to meet a somewhat controversial corner of the Jewish diaspora. Within Nigeria’s Igboland region is a community that has embraced Judaism, to the point of having Hebrew-language synagogue services.
The Igbo community profiled here insists that their society is a remnant of ancient Israel, and they cite a number of social and cultural similarities between Igbo customs and the protocol designated in the Old Testament. One charismatic young leader of the community is eager to expand his religious education and become an ordained rabbi.
While this Igbo community is enthusiastic in their embrace of Judaism, their euphoria is not shared elsewhere: they are viewed with hostility by Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim populations, and the Israeli government has been conspicuously unfriendly toward their claims of brotherhood.
Outside of its religious foundation, the film offers a somber detour into the tragic chapters of Igbo history, including the deportation of large numbers of men and women during the peak of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the brutal carnage that befell the region in the 1960s Biafran conflict.
Ultimately, this film provides a highly remarkable view of a dedicated population’s zeal to pursue religious freedom, and it is difficult not to be caught up in the sincerity and joy that these pious people bring to their faith.