Written and directed by Malka Shabtay, ‘Muito Amor – Jews and Judaism in Amazonia‘ is a feature length documentary that charts the rise of the Jewish community thriving in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. A celebrated anthropologist, Malka Shabtay remains a towering figure in the community as she races against time to document the rarely known Jewish communities in far flung areas of the planet. With its first shot out of a plane window, Muito Amor is a fascinating journey. Shabtay approaches the subject matter with poise and resolve, providing a hefty dose of exposition through various means to get the viewer upto speed. It turns out most of these inhabitants came from Morocco over a hundred years ago and through thick and thin, they have managed to make a life for themselves in one of the most inhospitable areas of the planet.


It is magical to see how Jews have integrated into the local culture. From the colourful costumes to the dances, each aspect of this culture feels like an infusion. As the elder members of the community open up, we find the fascinating details that have made this group of people resilient amongst towering odds. In spite of its flaws like the sloppy cinematography, every other creative decision stands out for its uniqueness, conveyed through the warmth of light and the stark contrast of colors displayed. In addition, there is a special kind of joy to be had from different individuals talking about their lives and how coming to the Amazon saved themselves and their religion, aiding them to achieve something which they never thought was possible. Shabtay’s direction similarly warrants applause; she chooses to focus on the human stories beneath the headlines in order to dive deep into the issue, unearthing something rare in the process.


The documentary is thus an interesting dive into how Jewish people from Moroccan background have made South America their home, despite the towering odds. The film is inspiring and it not only commemorates the steadfastness of the human spirit but also makes it clear how, despite their differences, humans are more alike than they would like to admit. The film is thus an immortalization of how South America remains both a melting pot of various cultures and a refuge for people from all backgrounds.