Little Time to Rest: 'Daughters' of Nomads

Pamela Nice
Still courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

Daughters of Anatolia
Directed by Halé Sofia Schatz
Grasshopper Film, 2015
Watching “Daughters of Anatolia,” a film documenting the nomadic lifestyle of goat herders in contemporary Turkey, makes one aware of the value of ethnographic filmography over its drier, academic prose cousin. Describing the migratory path from the Mediterranean Sea to the Taurus Mountains cannot compare with seeing the breath-taking beauty of mountains in bloom as goats scramble over them. Recording that 350    animals – mostly goats, but also camels, horses and dogs – make the trek in a symbiotic relationship with a herding family, the Goks, falls far short of the reality of watching the goats as they chew, swat flies, grab branches of flowers, and submit to milking. You can almost smell them. In this film, director Halé Sofia Schatz brings a palpable, sensory experience of the nomadic life, catching its earthy pleasures, despite its tremendous hardships. She reveals the connection of humans to nature that we have all but lost in the jungles of our urban landscapes.
The camera lingers on these connections, taking particular note of the women in the family and their activities: talking to the goats; milking them and delivering their kids; shearing the camels for wool; herding the animals across country roads and expansive fields, with the constant bleating and clanging bells. We see how many ways these goats give sustenance to the family, in the form of milk, meat, and cheese, for private use and for the market.
The Gok women have little time to rest: they spend their days cooking large quantities of food, gathering and transporting water, loading and unloading the camels, and weaving blankets for their tents. Schatz uses the term “daughters” in the title to highlight the film’s focus on the topic of children, education, and the desire of mothers and their children to leave the nomadic life for a more settled and predictable existence. Despite the difficulty of obtaining schooling while living a nomadic life, they believe it to be their way out.
“Daughters” successfully captures the sensory experiences of nomadic life, and shines when documenting the work of women in herding families. As such, this film would make a valuable contribution to courses in history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, among others. It offers a gentle meditation on the soon-to-be-lost nomadic life – what defines its beauty and connection to nature, as well as its unavoidable challenges. One must be careful not to romanticize this reality, but it does remind us what we have lost to our settled selves.
This review appeared in Al Jadid Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 73, 2017.
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