Faya Dayi

(Ethiopia/Qatar/2021—directed by Jessica Beshir)

Ten years in the making, Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir’s hypnotic documentary feature debut explores the coexistence of everyday life and its mythical undercurrents. Though a deeply personal project—Beshir was forced to leave her hometown of Harar with her family as a teenager due to growing political strife—the film she returned to make about the city, its rural Oromo community of farmers, and the harvesting of the country’s most sought-after export (the euphoria-inducing khat plant) is neither a straightforward work of nostalgia nor an issue-oriented documentary about drug culture.

Rather, she has constructed something sublimely dreamlike, which could rightly be called a work of trance-state cinema: a film that uses light, texture, and sound to illuminate the spiritual lives of people whose experiences often become fodder for ripped-from-the-headlines yet glossed-over tales of migration. Official Selection, Sundance and New Directors/ New Films 2021; Grand Jury Prize, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2021. In Amharic, Harari, and Oromo with English subtitles. (120 minutes)

"A poetic and haunting documentary-fiction fusion."- Amy Taubin, Artforum

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