Jan Philipp Weyl shot the film Running Against the Wind in Ethiopia. The entire film which is in Amharic was chosen as Ethiopia’s entry for the best international feature film category at the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9, 2020.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, this is the first film ever submitted to the Academy Awards with the backing of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The film which is currently in final post-production runs for 112 minutes and features Ethiopian legendary athlete Haile Gebrselassie as a cameo.
Although Ethiopia’s first film submitted for the Oscars was in 2010, it was a submission that individual producers and directors took responsibility for. Running against the Wind is the fourth time that Ethiopia has entered for the Oscars.
“In Ethiopia, two men are running to make their dreams come true. Tough and rough as life – Sweet and cosy as a dream. A love letter to life,” reads the synopsis of Weyl’s film which is shot in Ethiopia and makes use of Ethiopian actors and actresses, as well as crew.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Weyl — who aside from his native German speaks English, Amharic, Spanish and French — has a long association with Ethiopia and, since 2008, has raised more than $110,000 to build two schools in the country”.
Weyl’s film comes after The Red Sea Diving Resort, a film set in Ethiopia came under condemnation for its white saviour complex and not using an Ethiopian actors. Arguments about mis-representation of African cultures and languages in African stories have always been raised. The roles which ought to be played by African performers are rather given to American or European actors and actresses who don’t capture and represent cultural and distinctive linguistic nuances such as accents correctly
As Weyl prepares to showcase his new film to the world, it could be a lesson in how foreign producers and directors should immerse themselves in the local language and cultures, and involve indigenes of the countries they go to film in.