‘Lamb’ leads filmmaker from War-torn land to cannes
To hear yared zeleke tell it, his childhood was exactly like the plot of a movie. Growing up in Ethiopia under the iron-fisted Marxist Derg regime, there was war all around. His mother, a country aristocrat, fled to Addis Adaba when communism began to stalk rural Ethiopia, and it is there that she met Zeleke’s father, a penniless city boy.
Zeleke’s father was imprisoned when the filmmaker was 3 years old, and when he was 10, his mother and grandmother told him they were sending him to San Francisco — where his father had settled after escaping from Ethiopia to Japan to the United States — for his own safety.
Zeleke would spend the next 20 years yearning for the land he left behind, and he says his debut film “Lamb,” which made history this year as the first Ethiopian film selected for Cannes, was his ticket back in.
“My childhood was much like a fairy tale, even though Ethiopia was going through war and there was political chaos and famine,” says Zeleke, who returned full time to Ethiopia in 2007. “But the adults worked extra hard to protect us kids from the horrors around us, and that’s why I made the film the way I did.”
Told from the perspective of a 9-year-old narrator, “Lamb” is a colorful meditation on the multilayered complexity of rural Ethiopian life.
“My story is the story of so many immigrants who are snatched out of where they belong,” he says. “That outcast is in me, it’s in my psyche, and that’s very much my narrative.”
— Debra Kamin
Inspirations: Robert Bresson, Satyajit Ray’s “Apu Trilogy,” Todd Solondz
Agency: Slumkid Films