A great source of strength and resilience here at Hi8us South in these times is the inspiration that comes from the members of our board. And I’m not just referring to board meeting chat here. The latest work from our chair Jerry Rothwell is just that – pure inspiration, which comes from his craft and also from the subject matter and its central characters.
Town of Runners is a feature documentary about young runners from Bekoji – an Ethiopian highland town which has produced some of the world’s greatest distance athletes, including Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu. It tells the story of two young girls as they try to run their way to a different life. Central to the story is their coach, an important leadership figure in Bekoji who every day from the crack of dawn leads 300 young people from the town as they gather to train.
Three years in the making, the narrative hangs off some clever and charming devices that include a narration by a young local shopkeeper (whose voice breaks during the course of making the film) and the construction of a road that starts at the beginning of the film and is completed at the end! The narration is particularly important. Rather than being led by the voice of the usual journalistic missionary type, we are told the story through the voices of its players in partnership with the filmmaker. You can expect Jerry’s usual attention to a strong visual aesthetic and a character driven narrative, but one that doesn’t follow the common schmaltzy “Coach Carter” type story arc. Jerry is a social issue filmmaker with integrity and this comes through in a film that, in as much as much as it inspires, presents problems that require solutions. It is in the search for solutions that we are further motivated.
It can be easy for social issue filmmakers to create a work of art – which Town of Runners is – and leave it there. But the producers are honouring their responsibility by taking up the issues raised. They are doing this not through a benevolent and disempowering ‘aid’ campaign. With help from Hi8us South, Running Across Boarders and Run Dem Crew, the film’s producers are managing a campaign with coach Sentayehu from Bekoji to create a self-sustaining project based on a revenue generating exchange of skills between Bekoji and runners from the rest of the world that will improve conditions and provide better education and training facilities for the town. The film will be used as a vehicle for this as coach Sentayehu and the runners tour the UK attending screenings and visiting running clubs in April and May this year. The initial tour needs funding support. So if you’re as inspired by this story as we are, visit www.indiegogo.com/townofrunners to get involved.
Town of Runners trailer