6th Addis film festival opens with enduring human spirit themed “Town of Runners”

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The sixth Addis International Film festival opened on May 1 at the Italian Culture center with an inspiring yet poignant documentary film chronicling the lives of three aspiring teenage athletes and a tireless, selfless coach.

Amin Abdulkedir, Minister of culture and tourism who opened the festival, appreciating the focus on documentaries said the films will show the ups and downs of life, reflecting the most important issues facing the citizens of Ethiopia and beyond.    
Kebour Ghenna, General Manager of Initiative Africa which organized the film festival said the festival has grown from nine films at this same spot in its first edition to its current 50 plus films having varied themes like justice, education and environmental crisis.
The 85 minute long documentary film, “Town Of Runners” shows the collective determination and fears of three teenagers Bruck, Alemi and Hawii and their coach Sentayehu. It also depicts the place’s changing landscape over the span of three years from a small sleepy town named Bekoji located in the Oromia regional state 247Km south east of Addis Ababa, to a more modern town.
The film directed by Jerry Rothwell and produced by a British of Ethiopian origin appropriately enough starts with the background of the town and its famed running spirit and the three different yet similar characters and their coach who hopes to lead them eventually to glory.
Alemi and Hawii are childhood friends coming from a modest peasant family, having the same dreams and glory as their icons; the 2008 double Olympic Beijing long distance runner champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Africa’s first female 10,000 meter champion Derartu Tulu back in the Barcelona, Spain 1992 Olympics.
Meanwhile Bruck watches the town’s slow motion progress from his small shop which later is rebuilt larger after the original shop is demolished due to road construction.
While Alemi and Hawii are trained and guided by their coach Sentayehu to eventually be sent to two different towns in Oromia region, Bruck is still training but too young to be sent to any athletics academy.
While the two girls are both homesick, their fate becomes contrasting with Alemi traveling to Holeta athletics training academy located 44Km north west of Addis Ababa and Hawii is sent to Woliso town athletic academy 129Km south west of Addis Ababa.
Alemi finds a reasonably decent accommodation and is quite content, Hawii’s couldn’t be more contrasting as she ends up in a shabby mud thatched house with ever reduced benefits given by the academy.
Alemi starts training almost right away, Hawii gets sick with kidney stones and doesn’t train for months and eventually returns to her hometown to refresh herself and her weary body.
Meanwhile, Bruck whose mind is not made up about whether to aspire to become a doctor or an athlete, observes the slow moving asphalt construction gradually encroaching on the rough pathway roads of the city, while also training seriously with coach Sentayehu.
Bruck fails his 10th grade matriculation tests making his dreams to become a doctor distant, but undeterred considers a try again after a couple of years.
After a break in their hometown Bekoji, where they continued their exercises with their coach, Hawii and Alemi took part in the All Ethiopia championship of 2011 held in Addis Ababa.
They felt disappointed by their race, but their coach saw it as a promising result.
The film ends with Hawii’s and Alemi’s dogged determination to make it while their illiterate yet affectionate parents give them support and cautious advice on their future career path.
The “Town of runners” film in conclusion is at its heart a story about “dreams” and the attitude of “make believe” even at times when it seems the most rational and sensible thing to do is quit and try to go through the ladder of education only.
After this moving film chronicling the human spirits of these three individuals was aired the three teenagers to the surprise of the audience came on stage with the film’s producer the Ethio-British Daniel Demissie.
Daniel said the film was possible to make through a three year span mainly due to the film’s director Jeremy who had a good chemistry with the teenagers, as well as the teenagers letting them know when something important happens.  He further said that his working with some organizations like Tesfa Foundation has further enhanced the prospects of runners in Bekoji. 
Daniel said he found them searching for the origin of most of Ethiopia’s famous artists.   He met coach Sentayehu in Bekoji who selected six 12-16 year old runners to follow for the film that started shooting back in 2008.
The music soundtrack for the film was created by renowned film score composer Vince Walt together with the veteran Ethiopian composer Mulatu Astatke.
One of the central figures in the film, Hawii asked about her inspiration said it was her big sister who also runs and athlete Tirunesh Dibaba.
The three characters are involved in athletics with Hawii currently at Assela Athletics Club, while Alemi left Holeta athletics academy and joined Oromia Police club.
Bruck has joined the Federal Athletics Federation and is currently running to become an athlete.
The sixth Addis International Film Festival screened over 50 local and foreign documentaries held from May 1-6, 2012 at six venues in Addis Ababa and three regional universities.
The program also includes a question and answer sessions between filmmakers and the audience as well as workshops on matters related to how to make short films and how to be a film critic was held on May 2nd and 5th.The film festival also had organized three types of awards for the films screened consisting of best documentary award, best Ethiopian film award and best audience award.
The sixth Addis International Film Festival showed the documentary films in the premises of the Italian Cultural Institute, Alliance Ethio- Française, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa Youth Center, the British Council and Martyr’s Center.
In regional cities it’s expected to be screened at the Bahir Dar University, Mekelle University and Hawassa university halls.