Spotlight: Generation ‘Anbessa’ New Ethiopia Movie at Berlin Film Festival

'Anbessa' is making its world premier at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: February 11th, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — The 2019 Berlin Film Festival is underway this week and the Generation section of the program features a new film from Ethiopia titled Anbessa, which is executive produced by model and humanitarian Gelila Bekele. In the film a young boy from the Ethiopian countryside named Abisef recreates himself as a lionheart hero in response to the unsettling modernization and construction that is altering his life and community forever.

“You know, hyenas aren’t the bad ones,” his mother tells Abisef in one poignant conversation referring to the people from the city who want to buy her home so they can develop condos. “These days it’s humans you should fear.”

In a review titled ‘Anbessa’ Critiques a Country through the Eyes of a Child,’ Redmond Bacon points out that : Anbessa is the Ethiopian word for “Lion” — a creature accorded symbolic status in the country’s mythology. The Lion of Judah, for example, was used on their old imperial flags and currency, and can still be found around the streets of Addis Abeba today. It is also strongly related to Haile Selassie, Ethiopia’s defining figure that Abisef often swears by. Thus, by dressing up as a lion and pretending to banish the hyenas — a metaphor for the land dealers who want to take his house — Abisef stands strong as a symbol of the country’s pride under such hardship.”

The website for the 2019 Berlin Film Festival adds: “Abisef and his mother defy the newly-built housing estate which is like all the other ones springing up all over Ethiopia and continue their life within the traditional village community: grazing their animals, tending their gardens and picking fruit off the trees. Abisef’s hut lacks electricity, but the windows of the surrounding high-rises outshine the moon at night. Abisef scours the new city’s streets for electro-junk and builds a spaceship with an engine. His mother recounts ancient legends. Real estate developers buy up more land. Abisef feels increasingly threatened, stalked by the invisible hyena that haunts the area. With a sensitive grasp of her protagonist’s emotional reality, the documentary filmmaker and camerawoman Mo Scarpelli traces Abisef’s transformation into Anbessa, the lion.”

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