Filmed in Harar, the rural Ethiopian town where director Jessica Beshir grew up, Faya Dayi takes as its subject the khat trade, borrowing its title from a hymnal chant recited by the stimulant plant’s harvesters. In Harar, all lives are seemingly touched by khat, and its pervasive influence ranges from its integral role in Sufi rituals to being the backbone of the region’s economy. Khat’s societal impact is compounded and magnified by the leaf’s addictive properties, which (dis)affect the region’s youth in particular.
Trading exposition for evocation, the film is a lyrical and affecting coming-of-age portrait of the dreams—both pursued and dashed—held by teenaged protagonist Mohammed and his friends. The dream motif extends to the film’s mesmerizing atmosphere and observational narrative journey, rendered in sumptuous black-and-white photography that casts an impressionistic spell as it weaves along paths, through windows, and toward horizons that serve as eloquent symbols of youthful longing and escape. TM
This film is only available to viewers in the United States
Jeanne Applegate, Dustin Waldman
Ethiopia, United States, Qatar