Tribeca 2012: Town of Runners

| April 28, 2012

In Bekoji, Ethiopia, running is a way of life. Over the past two decades this small, rural town has been the unlikely home to numerous Olympic champion long-distance runners, whose athletic success has paved the way for young Ethiopians searching for a better life. Among the current group training under renowned coach Sentayehu Eshetu (whose protégé Derartu Tulu was the first African woman to win Olympic gold) are Alemi and Hawii, two teenage girls looking to set themselves apart from their teammates in Bekoji and move on to compete at the national level.

Capturing the seasonal rhythms of this farming region and the gradual impact of urbanization with a keen artistic eye, Tribeca Film Festival award winner Jerry Rothwell (Donor Unknown) follows these two young track hopefuls as they face the challenge of growing up and striving for greatness in a developing nation. The result is a lyrical portrait ofEthiopia seen through the hopes and ambitions of a generation determined to make a brighter future for themselves and their country.

Town of Runners is a delightful film that sheds light on young people who aspire to be Olympian winners—not just runners—but winners. The teens living in Bekoji are destined to run, and Eshetu has made it his life’s work to help these kids physically, mentally and emotionally.

The film showed the harsh realities that the runners faced after leaving their homes; camps that train them were often ill prepared to take care of their other needs. Some of the accommodations were sparse and food was hard to come by sometimes. In camp, the runners had to take the pay that they were receiving and use it to make sure they had plenty to eat. Hawii and Alemi were best friends, even though they were competitors, but they were living in two different camps. The separation that they experienced, after having been close in their home town, certainly must have weighed on them and affected their running outcomes. But in the end, they both persevere and work to become the best runners they could be.

Town of Runners was a good film that gave a glimpse into the hard work that long-distance runners from the town of Bekoji,Ethiopia, endure, just to stay one step ahead of the pack. The commitment that coach Eshetu had for his mission was unbelievable.




About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!

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