In Sufi tradition, it is said that chewing the khat, a stimulant green leaf, will show you the way to eternity. Jessica Beshir’s debut feature is a cinematic trip in the mountains of Ethiopia where Khat has become the most widespread and lucrative crop. Between legend and reality, Faya Dayi tells the stories of the people living off of this tiny yet powerful leaf.
In the Sufi tradition, it is said that chewing the khat’s leaf will show you the path to eternity. Once limited to religious folk, khat is today the most widespread and lucrative crop in Ethiopia. Its psychotropic effects have become so popular that many farmers substituted this small bush for their usual crop. Its trade has thus become an important source of income for the local population. Jessica Beshir's debut feature examines the existence of people whose lives depends on this powerful leaf, but from the first shot it is clear that the film’s investigation goes beyond the mere chronicling of a community facing the harshness of poverty and the shadow of war. In sumptuous black and white, the film loses itself in a landscape that seems under the effect of khat. From the fields to the town, the director’s discreet eye follows the trajectory of the leaf, drawing a path made of fragments of life, love, hope and addiction. Beshir's non-judgmental gaze and her instinctive framing give Faya Dayi a unique atmosphere built on the elegant balance between the monumental and the intimate, myth and reality.
Rebecca de Pas