This Week at the Detroit Film Theatre: “Faya Dayi”

Detroit Film Theatre curator and director Elliot Wilhelm highlights “Faya Dayi,” a stunning feature-length documentary from Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir.

CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM gives you a front-row seat to the latest films playing at the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Since 1974, DFT director Elliot Wilhelm has curated the films shown in this historic theater inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DFT recently kicked off its 2021 fall season. The full schedule, tickets and information about COVID-19 protocols for patrons who are attending can be found via DFT’s website.

Now Showing: “Faya Dayi”

Ten years in the making, Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir’s hypnotic documentary feature debut explores the coexistence of everyday life and its mythical undercurrents. Though a deeply personal project — Beshir was forced to leave her hometown of Harar with her family as a teenager due to growing political strife — the film she returned to make about the city, its rural Oromo community of farmers, and the harvesting of the country’s most sought-after export (the euphoria-inducing khat plant) is neither a straightforward work of nostalgia nor an issue-oriented documentary about drug culture.

Listen: DFT director Elliot Wilhelm explores the themes of “Faya Dayi.”

Rather, she has constructed something sublimely dreamlike, which could rightly be called a work of trance-state cinema: a film that uses light, texture and sound to illuminate the spiritual lives of people whose experiences often become fodder for ripped-from-the-headlines yet glossed-over tales of migration. Official Selection, Sundance and New Directors/New Films 2021; Grand Jury Prize, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2021. In Amharic, Harari and Oromo with English subtitles. (120 minutes)

“Faya Dayi” is showing Saturday, Nov. 6 and Sunday, Nov. 7 with multiple showtimes. More information via the Detroit Film Theatre’s website.

Detroit Film Theatre director Elliot Wilhelm contributed to this web story.

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