Beti and Amare
Saturday 18th October, 3.30pm – ICA
Sunday 19th October, 6.15pm – Ritzy
Beti and Amare is a difficult film to categorise – a war romance set in 1936 with science-fiction elements made for only $7,000 in Ethiopia – and most likely one the likes of which you probably haven’t seen before.
Set during Mussolini’s Abyssinian war, a young woman Beti (Hiwot Asres) escapes to her grandfather’s (Atrsaw Wisenbet) remote hut. They lead a meagre existence. Beti is threatened with rape by the local militia, a band of three young men in search of Italians to kill. When their goat dies, Beti’s grandfather leaves her alone in the hut, where she encounters a stranger, Amare (Pascal Dawson), who may be from outer space.
The film begins with an old-fashioned newsreel, which despite being oddly upbeat in the face of some very real suffering does make one pertinent observation – in times of war, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the most. This film, then, is an attempt to address Mussolini’s war from the perspective of those who suffered the most. Beti is a refugee, forced into a meagre life in a remote hut, living alone and under threat from men riled up by war. Beti dreams about a spaceship crash-landing on Earth, a dream that seems to come true when Beti is most in danger. Beti and Amare strike up a strong wordless friendship, one that helps Beti through her suffering and her loneliness.
The film is about suffering rather than battles and war, and it is valuable in this regard. Asres gives a strong performance, conveying both Beti’s vulnerability and strength without the use of a lot of dialogue. The film is well directed, particularly when one considers that it was made on a shoestring. However, the film seems to be more interested in being a festival oddity, rather than an honest and emotional story about how a young woman copes with the horrible world she finds herself in. Instead of making Beti’s retreat into fantasy the focus of the story, the film uses it as an excuse for extended flights of fancy, which ultimately overwhelm the drama at the film’s heart.
Beti and Amare sacrifices coherence for strangeness, leaving one wondering what exactly writer/director Andy Siege was trying to say.
Beti and Amare release date is yet to be announced.
For further information about the BFI London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Beti and Amare here: