A masterful work of sensory ethnography.
— Film Stage
Ten-year-old Asalif and his mother have been displaced from their Ethiopian farmland by the construction of a condominium. Now living on the divide between a new and ancient world, they are reminded that their country’s big dream of “progress” is not for them. Land developers come knocking and Asalif feels his mother’s fear of further displacement. On the other side, ferocious hyenas lurk in a dark forest and local farmers speak their lore. To fight back against all that threatens his family, Asalif transforms into a lion (anbessa in Amharic). His newfound power takes him to places he never imagined inside and out of the condo until finally, Asalif must shed the lion persona and find the strength that resides in him as a boy, in order to deal with the tides of change and violence that are usurping his family, his country, and his own identity.
A stunning observational work, Italian American director Mo Scarpelli’s debut feature ANBESSA vibrantly mirrors its subject’s imagination with a creative approach to non-fiction filmmaking. The film is an urgent and caring portrait of those cast aside by the processes of modernization.
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