The Athlete

"Athlete" recounts the life and times of Africa's first Olympic gold medalist.

With:
With: Rasselas Lakew, Dag Malmberg, Ruta Gedmintas, Abba Waka Dessalegn.

Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat programmatic contribution to cinematic sporting history. Upbeat yet tragic finale could ensure a few laps around the fest circuit and niche distribution.

Pic starts in 1969 with Bikila (Lakew, quietly dignified), then at the height of his career, revisiting his Ethiopian hometown, prompting some spectacular location scenery. Flashbacks and dialogue reveal how he survived WWII by hiding in hills, became an athlete and soldier, and then triumphed running barefoot in the 1960 Rome Olympics. However, in 1969, a car accident leaves him paralyzed. Not one to take adversity sitting down, Bikila fights to gain control of his arms at least and then goes on to win medals in cross-country sledging. Finale, set to a song by avant-garde Icelandic group Sigur Ros, is properly tearjerking if manipulative. Tech credits are low-budget but watchable all the same.

The Athlete

U.S.-Germany-Ethiopia

Production: An Av Patchbay, El Atleta (U.S.)/Instinctive Film (Germany)/Riot Entertainment (Ethiopia) production. (International sales: Av Patchbay, New York.) Produced, directed by Davey Frankel, Rasselas Lakew. Screenplay, Lakew, Frankel, Mikael Amerio Awake.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, 35mm-to-HD), Philipp Pfeiffer, Rodney Taylor, Radoslav Spassov, Toby Moore; editors, Davey Frankel, Matt Mayer; music, Christian Meyer; production designer, Tesfaye Wondemagegne; costume designer, Muslin Dulti. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (Rosebud), June 23, 2009. Original title: Atletu. Amharic, English dialogue. Running time: 85 MIN.

With: With: Rasselas Lakew, Dag Malmberg, Ruta Gedmintas, Abba Waka Dessalegn.

More Film

  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

    Film Review: 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • Rose Byrne

    Film News Roundup: Rose Byrne in Talks to Join Tiffany Haddish's 'Limited Partners'

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • Cher and Meryl Streep'Mamma Mia! Here

    How the Cast of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' Geeked Out Around Cher

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • 'BuyBust' Review

    Film Review: ‘BuyBust’

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • John Malone

    John Malone, Scott Paterson Retiring From Lionsgate Board

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • Moviepass

    MoviePass Parent's Stock Plunges Again to Record Low

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

  • Timothee Chalamet

    Timothee Chalamet in Talks to Star in Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune'

    Based on a remarkable true story, told through a blend of drama and archival footage, “The Athlete” recounts the life and times of Africa’s first Olympic gold medalist, Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. Co-helmed by visual artist Davey Frankel and Ethiopian athlete Rasselas Lakew (who also plays the lead), pic reps a worthy if somewhat […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content