by Mo Scarpelli
01:26:03 Ethiopia | Italy | USA
Recommended ages: 8+
A boy caught between the ancient and the new navigates modernization on his own terms. By becoming a lion (anbessa) he can fight back against the forces outside of his control.
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Six languages : English /Greek / Italian / German/ Spanish and the original Amharic
In 2015, I started wandering around an unfinished condominium complex on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. I was curious for perspective on how a rapid development scheme was playing out on an individual level, especially in a country and culture so historically resistant to outside influence.
On the edge this swath of unfinished buildings, I met a boy who was – in his own ways – confronting “progress” as it steam-rolled his world. Pushed from his previous farmland by the construction, he and his mom were squatting in a makeshift house eclipsed by what turned into one of the biggest condominium complexes in East African history. Living between two realities - the old and the new - he was actively trying to find his place in a world that seemed to constantly remind him that the promises of modernity are not meant for him.
There is a quiet violence which modernization is impressing on all of us. We are expected to straddle the divide between what is sacred to us — our family, our traditions, our history — and what is promising for our future — technology, individualism, and a life centered on raising capital. We live in a neurosis because that future world only estranges us from the old. We live in a lie because the shiny promises of "progress" do not exist for all. Asalif's solution is to create a reality for himself. I made this film because I needed to inhabit the realms he does, where humans may become lions in order to survive. Asalif's dreams and fantasy are not simply an escape mechanism; they are a fortification necessary to cope with the annals of modernization, to face forces which threaten the existence of all of us.
Mo Scarpelli is an Italian-American director and cinematographer of mostly-non-fiction cinema. Her work is centered around watching people for long periods of time. Her films tend to linger on the rupture of identity by exterior circumstances, and the cold violence inflicted on the individual by changing landscapes.
Mo's films have been exhibited at the Berlinale, Visions du Réel, Film Society of Lincoln Center, IDFA, BFI London Film Festival, Olafur Eliasson Studios in Berlin, SXSW, Hot Docs, among other festivals and venues.