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Anbessa: A Beautiful Story of A Child’s Escape Into Imagination As A Coping Mechanism For Displacement

We spoke with Italian-American director Mo Scarpelli about ten-year-old Asalif and the magical world he creates to cope.


Photo: Movie still

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.

In conversation, Italian American director Mo Scarpelli's, Okayafrica's Ciku Kimeria discusses this stunning observational work that is a caring portrait of those cast aside by the process of modernization.

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10 African Films That Deal With Protest Culture & History

African countries have a long history of protests and demonstrations against forces of oppression, and this has been represented significantly in cinema.