Quiet, powerful and masterfully acted, Red Leaves tells the tale of Meseganio (Debebe Eshetu), an Ethiopian immigrant living in Israel. After his wife’s death, Meseganio decides to sell his flat and live out the rest of his life with his two sons, his daughter and their families. But Meseganio is a stubborn man of habit and his children – and grandchildren – are not so easily swayed to his will.
Touching on racism and the waning of traditions in the face of modern life, first-time director Bazi Gete creates a heart-wrenching insight into a rarely seen or explored, but easily relatable, faction of society.
The film is incredibly naturalistic; the interactions between the family members appear so real, in fact, that at times it feels uncomfortably voyeuristic. This natural effect is due largely to the excellent way it’s filmed: entirely from Meseganio’s perspective, devoid of any background music and never quite straying into unbelievable territory.
Debebe Eshetu’s performance is stunning and heartfelt, more than making up for any weak links in the cast, but further, he makes an objectively unlikeable character sympathetic. Meseganio is sexist, racist and domineering and yet, Red Leaves still manages to draw the audience into his world and feel his helplessness and sense of not belonging.
That being said, this film is not for everyone. The long tracking shots and many quiet, pensive moments can make for dull viewing if one is not properly absorbed, and in some of the earlier shots it is easy to lose track of the many family members.
By keeping it simple, Gete has created a gem of a film and hopefully the beginning of a very lucrative career.
Red Leaves does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Red Leaves here: