Review: ‘Anbessa’

Hot Docs 2019

2 mins read

(Italy/USA, 85 min.)
Dir. Mo Scarpelli
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)

Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is rapidly expanding. But this expansion comes with a cost of the clearing of farmlands, displacing the original rural inhabitants. Living with his mother on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, ten-year old Asalif goes through life like any other child, but with knowledge of the impending city development that could push his family still further away.

The precocious Asalif is truly a star in this film. He is lucid when it comes to the state of the condominium-filled city and its impact on his family, but, in his youthful exuberance, he is not as burdened as the adults around him. He enjoys video games and make-believe where he imagines himself as a roaring lion, all the while moving easily between urban development and rural landscape.

But Anbessa, despite Asalif’s charm, is a middling film. While tackling an important topic, the film feels dulled. It’s a disservice to the depiction of the sprightly Asalif’s playtime, and the gravity of his community’s situation. The film is perhaps too evenly made. With a measured balance of themes and unadventurous aesthetic unity, the result is monotony, while something more exciting could have drawn in a spectator. Anbessa is definitely not bad, but it fails to captivate.

Anbessa screens:
-Thurs, May 2 at 9:00 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Fri, May 3 at 12:45 PM at Cineplex Scotiabank
-Sun, May 5 at 3:15 PM at Aga Khan

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!

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