A child’s hand is pressed against a shock of thick, orange fur. In the close shot, which fills the whole screen, the hand and the fur move in unison. As the fingers rub back and forth, soft music begins to swell.
This image opens Yared Zaleke’s 2015 film Lamb, about a young boy, Ephraim, who is sent to live with his uncle after his mother dies. When his uncle demands that Ephraim’s beloved lamb, Chuni, be slaughtered for their holiday meal, Ephraim does everything he can to take his lamb back to his hometown.
Set in the rolling hills of Ethiopia, the film is filled with shots of sun-drenched landscapes and vibrant villages. We see children running and laughing outside of a bus window; we see Ephraim and Chuni marching through a thick forest of bending, moss-covered trees, awash in a white sunlight that makes it look otherworldly. At a time when we are all in some way trapped inside, this film transports us to the lush fields and mountaintops that Ephraim traverses.
The love that Ephraim has for Chuni is at the center of Lamb. You too will likely find it hard not to feel the intensity of it. Ephraim’s isolation and sense of entrapment within his new family, who often berate and sometimes beat him, is palpable. As he is also bullied by the children in the village, Ephraim’s sole companion is the lamb. When Ephraim sits with Chuni in his dark barn at night, or when he bemoans that it is unfair that Chuni has to sit on the top of the bus that takes him to his uncle’s house, the deep connection that Ephraim has with the animal is undeniable. Throughout the film, Chuni feels less like a pet and more like the last family member Ephraim has. The urgency with which Ephraim tries to save his beloved animal is the driving tension of the film.
A Visually Stunning OVID.tv Film
Lamb is heart-wrenching but dazzling in this writer’s view. We are brought into Ephraim’s world from the opening scene of Ephraim’s hand pressed against Chuni’s side. We remain enraptured until the last. From the center of a bustling village market to the backs of produce trucks to breathtaking mountaintops, Lamb takes us to many colorful corners of a small part of Ethiopia.
The film is touching and stunning enough to recommend to any viewer, but might be especially enjoyable for fans of foreign films that have a focus on aesthetics and nature scenes.
Writer and Director: Yared Zaleke
Producers: Ama Ampadu; Laurent Lavole;Johannis Rexin; David Hurst; Alan Milligan
Cinematographer: Josée Deshaies
Editor: Véronique Bruque
Music: Christophe Chassol
Rediat Amare as Ephraïm
Kidist Siyum as Tsion
Welela Assefa as Emama
Surafel Teka as Solomon
Rahel Teshome as Azeb
Indris Mohamed as Abraham
Bitania Abraham as Mimi
For more information and to view this film visit the OVID.tv webpage for LAMB
Images courtesy of OVID.tv
About the Author: Nell Beck
Nell Beck is a rising senior at Oberlin College, where she is pursuing a BA in English. At school, she is co-editor of the literary nonfiction magazine and eats in a dining co-op. Raised in Montclair, New Jersey, she is passionate about books, art, and writing. Looking ahead, she hopes to pursue an arts-related career, travel a lot, and become a better baker.