The 2012 documentary Town of Runners is a visually stunning story of two young women growing up in rural Bekoji, a village about 140 miles south of Addis Ababa. For anyone interested in understanding today’s Ethiopia, this film provides a glimpse into the lives of everyday Ethiopians living at an economic level typical of the Ethiopian countryside. The production quality is first rate, as is the story telling. The film follows two girls pursuing their dreams to become professional athletes in a place where that is more common than one might guess.
Town of Runners is a great way to get a feel for the people that Lou and Genet and Bethel church are trying to serve. Although the film is set in Oromia, an ethnic region to the south of the Amhara region, the people and the lives portrayed are very similar to those living to the North.
Some things to notice:
- There are so many young people! Ethiopia is a very old country with a very young population. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the median age in Ethiopia is 17.5 years old. In contrast, the median age in the United States is 37.2!
- The youth in Ethiopia are ready for change. Although the girls in this film respect the way that their parents live, they are ready to work for something different.
- The small family farm with crops and some livestock that is shown in the documentary represents a rural Ethiopian family that is doing pretty well. The cattle, which are very valuable, supplement their diet and their finances and serve as capital reserve.
- In one scene, one of the girls’ mothers is roasting beans over a charcoal fire indoors, then mashing them with a pestle as she talks to the camera. This is an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. No stay in Ethiopia is complete without witnessing or sharing in a coffee ceremony. Ethiopians of all stripes socialize and drink coffee in this way regularly.
- Ethiopia’s development is part of the backdrop of the film. Notice that the paved road making its way to Bekoji is being built by “the Chinese.” Chinese workers are indeed at work throughout Ethiopia, building and improving infrastructure.