// Presented as part of February's Foreign Language Oscar Series //
Yared Zeleke / 2015, Cannes, Adelaide, Amiens, Denver, London, Toronto / 94'
Ephraim is a young boy living in the drought-stricken regions of Ethiopia. When his mother succumbs to famine, his family nucleus is ruptured: Ephraim's father departs for better work in Addis Ababa, sending the boy to live with relatives in Ethiopia's yet verdant farmland. Ephraim doesn't take to his new surroundings, especially considering his new family intends to slaughter Chuni, his beloved pet sheep, for an upcoming feast. Ephraim thus hatches a plan to escape back to his father's home.
Steeped in gorgeous landscapes and ethnographic detail, Lamb weaves a rich portrait of contemporary Ethiopian society through one boy's journey to survive on his own terms. This accomplished feature film debut from Ethiopian filmmaker Yared Zeleke was the first Ethiopian film to ever premiere in Cannes' Official Selection, and the third film to ever be submitted by the country for the Foreign Language Oscar.
In an exclusive interview with Filmatique, Yared Zeleke discusses displacement and diaspora in Ethiopia, the country's legacy of religious coexistence, a period of awakening on the African continent and his next project.
Housewarming, a short film by Yared Zeleke, is now streaming on Filmatique for free. Housewarming tells the story of Yudit, a young refugee and artist from Ethiopia, as she is confronted with an escalating crisis taking place back in her unstable homeland while trying to enjoy the hedonistic chaos of a Brooklyn party. Presented with the permission of Yared Zeleke.
"Sheer brilliance knits together first Ethiopian film at Cannes... Much of Lamb's run time is spent simply absorbing the culture, and Zeleke has a really sharp eye... clearly inspired by arthouse classics like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and, owing to the animal aspect, the Italian neorrealist classic Umberto D... It’s bittersweet, to be sure, but Lamb would also work as a film to show your children— it might allow them an emotional connection to ways of life so rarely explored on film"
- Jordan Hoffman, Cannes Review, The Guardian
"A young boy left in the care of relations struggles in his new surroundings in Yared Zeleke’s attractive, multilayered debut, Lamb. Handsomely shot in the mountainous countryside of Ethiopia, the pic scores points for shying away from one-dimensional female characterizations, and while the men don’t manage to escape from certain stereotypes to the same degree, the classic storytelling and deeply sympathetic junior protag, combined with the relative novelty of onscreen depictions of Ethiopian life, should earn Lamb a welcoming place"
- Jay Weissberg, Cannes Review, Variety
"It is a vision of Ethiopia that the average American might not expect: craggy emerald peaks, picturesque villages, a priest blessing a family for a festive religious celebration. Lamb [has] generated considerable buzz for its 37-year-old writer-director"
- Carolina A. Miranda, Palm Springs Review, Los Angeles Times
"Beautifully crafted... and carefully balanced, the different religions of Ethiopia beautifully integrated into the story without making a particular fuss about any of them. The film also feels richly textured, visually, with the camera drinking in everything from Chuni’s thick, chunky fur to the dried-out earth and wood used for the huts and the finely woven, colorful scarves that everyone wears"
- Boyd van Hoeij, Cannes Review, The Hollywood Reporter