Running Against the Wind is a worthy if occasionally stodgy Ethiopian drama that follows two friends as they take very separate paths. Brought up in a remote rural town, Solomon (Mikiyas Wolde) and Abdi (Ashenafi Nigusu) are best mates. Abdi dreams of becoming a long distance runner, inspired by Ethiopian hero Haile Gebreselassie; Solomon, an orphaned opportunist, steals a camera and heads to Addis Ababa, trying to pursue his ambition to be a photographer.
The pair reconnect again, years later. Solomon now has a wife and adorable child (Samrawit Desalegn and Yemariam Milkamu) and lives in a makeshift shack in the slums of Addis Ababa, whereas Abdi has dedicated his life to running under the auspices of his coach and is becoming a poster boy for the Ethiopian team. Solomon falls foul of local drug dealers and criminals, led by Sintayehu Arega’s Tatek – but, after walking on the wild side with his wayward pals, pulls himself out of his predicament via his camera and photography skills, capturing street life as it is.
Full of humanity and presenting a side of Ethiopian society rarely seen by Western audiences, although admittedly falling into the occasional well-worn cliche (a confrontation with the baddie at the climax), there’s a hopeful spirit that runs throughout. Occasionally the pacing from director and co-writer Weyl becomes a little plodding and indulgent, but Wolde’s performance in particular holds the film together. A detailed dive into a grittier side of Addis Ababa and a testament to the power of friendship – one that thankfully doesn’t wallow in its grimmer moments – Running Against The Wind is also a glimpse into the neglected lives of those struggling to make their way in contemporary Ethiopia and the few possibilities that lay open to them.
Dir: Jan Philipp Weyl (15, 120 mins)
Out now via the BluRay Montage Pictures Range
words KEIRON SELF
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