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The 70th Berlinale International Film Festival will be held from February 20 to March 1, 2020.
Our team of festival ambassadors and reporters bring you the dailies from the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market and keep an eye on past editions archives. WATCH OUR VIDEO COVERAGE TRAILERS INTERVIEWS AND AMBIANCE   PHOTOS

#berlinale I Berlinale 2019 I  Berlinale 2018Berlinale 2017 coverage I Berlinale  2016 I Berlinale 2015 I  Berlinale 2014 I 




Anbessa (Lion) premiered at Berlinale: a conversation with Mo Scarpelli and Caitlin Mae Burke by Lyndsay R. Bellinger


(Asalif Tewold,© Mo Scarpelli)




Anbessa is the epitome of a "fly-on-the-wall" cinematic experience. Italian-American director/cinematographer/camerawoman/writer Mo Scarpelli, whose producer Caitlin Mae Burke points out, "she was totally alone for most of the film,"  first visited Ethiopia about 10 years ago when she was working with an NGO focusing on clean water. Her love of Ethiopia as a country, their culture and people only grew with each visit. It was enthralling to see how excited she was talking about her experience with the film, first meeting Asalif when he was eight years old, "this kid comes out of nowhere, and chirps at me and my friend Misgan and roars at us." 

Scarpelli shared how it was a real turning point for her when she realized, "Oh, I don't have to just come here to do these NGO projects or videos. There is a possibility here, now that I'm getting to know the culture so much and to know local people here who I can rely on and trust to be collaborators. I could make something that's independent and I found that my own curiosity with Ethiopia is very strong; it's such a unique culture. It's very bold and defiant against westernization, colonization. The culture is very much its own thing and always has been, so that really resonates with my curiosity. So anyway, I was always going with these different projects and cultivating this curiosity and how modernization, which is really kind of taking over every place in the world. Every place has new infrastructure projects. People are being displaced in traditional lands in order to build these developed places."


(Asalif Tewold,© Mo Scarpelli)


"His tone was almost like this old soul and I was captivated by him. And it turns out that he was displaced by this condo and was living on the outside of it, so the film chronicles what it means to be someone who is living between the old and the new because that's where he is and that's where my curiosity always was, what it's like to be in that space. There's so many things with his personality that resonate with me personally when it comes to that."


(Asalif Tewold,© Mo Scarpelli)  


I think that part of it is that he's very mature, and I was very attracted to that maturity within him but he's still very much a kid, creative and still has a lot of imagination. At a time when he was going from boy into adolescence but he wasn't teenager enough to withhold his emotions. There is this really sweet spot and that's where most of the film was shot, in this six-week time when he had just turned ten and he was harnessing this story that we had been talking about for the last year, of the lion and how that was important to him. And he started re-enacting his dreams and his fantasies when it came to that and that's where he actually went through an evolution as a human, from boy to teenager kind of, and the film chronicles that special time. 


Burke, producer on the film, shared how she feels that documentaries often face a prejudice, being forced into a rigid box where they should look a certain way and that people think they "can't access these emotional moments." She finds beauty in that fact that "everyone assumes that you can't get that close to someone unless you have constructed that's just defying people's expectations of what documentary is."


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About Berlin

Chatelin Bruno

Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
Ambiance, film reviews, trailers and podcasts, EFM insider information, and much more.
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