Yared Zeleke's 'Lamb' Shows a Version of Ethiopia Rarely Seen on Screen

3 mins read

By Jeffrey Edalatpour

The first scene in Berkeley-based filmmaker Yared Zeleke’s Lamb is a close-up of a hand caressing a woolly brown belly. The hand belongs to Ephraim; the wool to Chuni (meaning “dear”), his lamb and constant companion. Chuni is more than a pet. Since his mother’s death, Ephraim concentrates all of his love and affection on the lamb. Zeleke follows their story together as they journey across the lush, verdant mountains of Ethiopia, Zeleke’s homeland.
In person, Zeleke explains that, although the film is semi-autobiographical, he grew up in a “very typical slum neighborhood of Addis Ababa.” In fact, his production company is called Slum Kid Films, but he’s proud of his roots. “I grew up during the time of war with Somalia and Eritrea, during the time of the communist dictatorship, and the great famine of the 1980s. But I had a really happy childhood, and a very colorful childhood.”

Rediat Amare as Ephraim, and Chuni the lamb in ‘Lamb.’ (Courtesy of Yared Zeleke)
Rediat Amare as Ephraim, and Chuni the lamb in ‘Lamb.’ (Courtesy of Yared Zeleke)

Ephraim’s story, in contrast, takes place in rural farming villages. When the camera encompasses wide views of peaks and valleys, Ethiopia looks like an undisturbed Eden that’s being captured on film for the first time. Zeleke had two reasons for setting the film in the countryside. “There is the political aspect,” he says, “which is that Ethiopia is not a desert, that it’s mostly green. It’s about reclaiming the image as an Ethiopian, as an African, and [telling] through the story of someone from there. Because it’s been depicted to the world by outsiders for too long.”
The second reason is more personal. “The landscape is a major character because so much of Ethiopia’s history, culture, vegetation, way of life, the way we look — everything’s shaped by these mountains,” Zeleke says. “Seventy percent of Africa’s mountains are in Ethiopia. These mountains have made us who we are.” The presence of this landscape adds a mythical quality to a simple story: what will become of Ephraim and Chuni as they settle into the household of distant relatives?
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  1. The film maker was not really in the business of introducing Ethiopia. He is one of the subverser with a mission to introduce Jewishness to Ethiopians. If you carefully listen to the Amharic words about the kid actor- he depicted him as half (on his mother side) Jewish not an Ethiopia. This kind of movie makers are in the business of hoodwinked society to sell the Ethiopian people their nationality to foreign slave traders.
    There is no Jewish race in Ethiopia as the film maker want you to accept. There are Jewish/Ayhud/Felasha religion followers in Ethiopia not Ayhud/Falash race as they called them. So Ethiopians should alert to distinguish connive film makers from the real ones. Enough brainwashing mission to sell our people as foreigners is been carried for so long. Time to stop and confront and expose clever mercenaries.
    Would some one like an Ethiopian film maker calling an Ethiopian boy as half slave. That is what it is. the boy’s mother is Ayhud and the father is an Ethiopian. That is what the film is telling you. How can one appreciate such such subversion against our people. Is that why the film critique called it “Rare”? Please stop. Enough is enogh. Zionist and their mercenaries need to stop tagging our people as Felasha Israelite and taking our people as black Jew from our country. Opposition media need to be careful from spreading foreign subversion to ruin our culture, history and stability.
    Getachew Reda (Editor Ethio Semay)

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