Eye For Film >> Movies >> Hairat (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
British viewers may find the subject matter of Jessica Beshir's documentary short familiar, thanks to Richard Attenborough's Planet Earth, which featured Abba Yussuf, the "Hyena Man of Harar" on one of his nightly visits to feed these wild animals in Ethiopia. It's a tradition that dates back to the 19th century famine and which has been revived by Yussuf, who began to feed them in the Sixities.
In fact, this is less a traditional documentary than a meditiation on these nightly meetings as Beshir - shooting in black and white - shows both the edge of danger inherent in feeding the animals from a stick which Yussuf grips between his teeth, but also the playfulness that has developed between him and the predators. The mystical side of the ritual is emphasised by a poem from Harar-based author Elias Shagiz Adonay Tesfaye, an evocative lament to love.
Cinematographer Efrem Degu Bekele captures beautiful images of the creatures in the flicker of firelight, an oddly compelling mix of cuddly toy and killing machine, with their thick fur coats and wide jaws. Beshir is happy to retain the mystery of how this relationship has come to pass in favour of immersing us in the here and now of it, while atmospheric but unobtrusive sound design from Tom Efinger adds to the mood, drawing you into the moment and asking you to consider the emotion of this connection rather than just the straight forward facts.Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2017