A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations - and Ethiopia's most lucrative cash crop... Read allA spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations - and Ethiopia's most lucrative cash crop today.A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations - and Ethiopia's most lucrative cash crop today.
Faya Dayi is also the universal story of drug addiction, oppression, marginalization, escapism (literal and metaphorical), love (family, nation, land, place, space). Replace khat with another drug and see how illicit substances not only control minds but endemic economies as well. We may not know the Ethiopia of this film, but we can make certain parallels with the struggles of disenfranchised people from all over the world, who might even live in cities like Chicago, for instance, and the story would resonate somehow despite the lavish pastoral setting, which harkens to a glorious past and radiant people.
The film often makes you wonder where the young men plan on landing and what they plan on doing should they leave the miasma of their ancestral land behind to become refugees willing to be eaten by the fish of the sea on a perilous voyage.
This film is also the story of the films that go on in people's minds (dreams) as Mohammed reveals. In other words, it's a film about film. It's about the khat that makes people unpredictable and engenders dreams or films of the mind, yes; still, it's also about that infinite metatheatre of films within this one photographic film uniting an entire community's interior monologues into a single story. Really, this explains the film's form and delivery, which won't be everyone's cup of tea; it's also the story of "sober" dreams displayed by the film's youth. Will the powerful Eurocentric world offer them predictability? A rational, linear, powerful alternative to their seemingly cyclical misery?
The film is gorgeously shot using lots of chiaroscuro elements and photographic techniques. I was impressed with all the little frames used to make this point-doorways, archways, bowers with light piercing true at subtle yet important moments. Kind of like Antonioni and Caravaggio but with regard to a different subject, time, and place. Much more profound and personal.
This film is utterly unique and yet is in conversation with so much philosophically in terms of form, art, culture, sociology. There's much to glean, but you have to let go in order to hold on, if that makes sense. Let the people tell their story. Don't force them into your own frame of mind (to borrow a photographic term).
Worth watching and rewatching if you can on Criterion.
- Feb 9, 2022