Hot Docs 2021: “Faya Dayi”

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a magical leaf that would be able to lift our spirit and give us some magical power to excel? It’s something the youth would benefit from, especially those from underdeveloped countries as they could harvest something energetic and promising out of misery.

“Faya Dayi” is beautifully shot in black and white, and with stunning cinematography takes us to Harar, Ethiopia, where it’s believed that ‘khat’ is a stimulant leaf chewed by Sufi Muslims for religious mediations. As the country sees it as the most important source of cash flow, it’s the youth who dreams for a better life, escape from poverty, improve their situation, whether it’s in their land or the land they call foreign.

The film raises deep questions such as immigration, what can a foreign land give them, or comparing it with the love of a stepfather that cannot be the same as the love of a biological parent. The film explores the life of khat farmers and it brings us a young boy named Mohammad, who suffers a shift in mood due to khat and its effect on him. He also dreams to leave the country to join his mother in Saudi Arabia, even though he has no idea whether she survived the boat trip across the Red Sea or not.

“Faya Dayi” from director Jessica Beshir is a stylish, and fairytale-like documentary that’s as beautiful as a dream. The charm of the film is in its pure color, lyrical approach and the breathtaking view that will certainly transport you from you cozy room into the beautiful land of Merkhana, with its deeply complex people, fascinating scenery, and a beautiful tale that is worth being told.

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