Toronto Sun BY LIZ BRAUN
Ethiopia has Oscar fever
Runninf Against The Wind, a drama from filmmaker Jan-Philipp Weyl, is Ethiopia’s entry in the Best International Feature Film category — what used to be called Best Foreign Language Film.
Ethiopia is a newbie at the Hollywood game. The country submitted a movie for the first time in 2010, taking part again in 2014 and 2015.
Running Against The Wind (Yenifasu Filmya) is the first movie ever submitted to the Academy Awards by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism; in the past, producers and others in the country’s struggling film industry had to apply to the awards themselves.
Running Against The Wind is a love letter to Ethiopia.
The film, which is in Amharic with English subtitles, follows the fate of two boys, one of whom hopes to become an Olympic runner and the other a photographer.
They are as close as brothers, but things change; one winds up in the slums of Addis Ababa while the other stays in the countryside. As adults, they lead very different lives — until their paths cross again.
The movie does not shy away from Ethiopia’s poverty and social problems, but neither does it neglect the spectacular physical beauty of the land — the Great Rift Valley, soaring mountains and deserts that look like the surface of the moon.
Writer/director Jan-Philipp Weyl made sure to employ local crews and actors and has included the work of Ethiopian musicians (such as Sileshi Demissie) and photographers in the movie; he even has Ethiopia’s famed long distance runner and gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie in a cameo.
Running Against The Wind just opened in Ethiopia on Saturday.
How we came to the see the movie is a typical TIFF tale: we crossed paths with a young man who had been moved to tears by a TIFF movie (it was Blackbird, which stars Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet) and he wanted to talk about it.
Then he introduced himself — Jan-Philipp Weyl — and explained that his debut feature film would be representing Ethiopia to the world. He hopes the people, their culture and their values will come through loud and clear in the story of two young men who are willing to fight for their dreams.
“It’s my biggest dream to bring an Oscar to my beloved Ethiopia,” he said.
The German-born Weyl fell in love with Ethiopia when he was still a teenager and is involved with funding schools in the country.
He wrote, directed and produced five short films before undertaking his first feature, Running Against The Wind.
In 2015, it was a very big deal when an Ethiopian film — Lamb, from filmmaker Yarid Zeleke — landed a spot at the Cannes film festival.
Now, this potential Academy Award nod for Running Against The Wind has the country paying attention to awards season. As Weyl put it, “All of Ethiopia has Oscar fever.”
Source Toronto Sun