Director: Jessica Beshir

120 mins, Ethiopia-US-Qatar, 2021, Digital, Subtitled, Black & White

Jessica Beshir’s stunningly beautiful documentary studies the role played by the khat plant in Ethiopian life across generations, used by much of the population on a daily basis both by longstanding tradition and because of its addictive stimulant qualities. Perhaps unusually for a narcotic, it is eschewed by younger people who see the foggy haze in which it has kept their elders, and their country. The film’s superficially languorous approach allows tales of individual experience to surface from the pristine and evocative monochrome imagery. In this quietly meticulous fashion, a portrait is painted of a country in thrall to its own desperate needs. Khat is one of Ethiopia’s main exports, and a significant source of income for the often persecuted Oromo people. Whether for its high or its financial rewards, it represents escape from a difficult existence.

Notes by Kevin Coyne

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