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Directed by Jessica Beshir • 2021 • Ethiopia, United States, Qatar
A sublime work of trance-state cinema, the debut feature by the Mexican Ethiopian filmmaker Jessica Beshir is a hypnotic immersion in the world of rural Ethiopia, a place where one commodity—khat, a euphoria-inducing plant once prized for its supposedly mystical properties—holds sway over the rituals and rhythms of everyday life. As if under the intoxicating influence of the drug itself, FAYA DAYI unfurls as a hallucinogenic cinematic reverie, capturing hushed, intimate moments in the existences of everyone from the harvesters of the crop to people lost in its narcotic haze to a desperate but determined younger generation searching for an escape from the region’s political strife. The film’s exquisite monochrome cinematography—each frame a masterpiece sculpted from light and shadow—and time-bending, elliptical editing create a ravishing sensory experience that hovers between consciousness and dreaming.