The KimStim Collection, with domestic sales and distribution support provided by Icarus Films, announced this past week that Ethiopian writer/director Yared Zeleke’s award-winning Lamb will be released on DVD on Sept. 6.
With Lamb, one is immediately reminded of those wonderful, heart-tugging films that Disney used to make … The Incredible Journey, Old Yeller and Big Red (to name just a few) immediately spring to mind. Instead of a faithful dog (or cat), this beautifully told story is more akin to director Irving Rapper’s 1956 film, The Brave One (a restored Blu-ray edition was recently released by VCI Entertainment).
Ephraïm (Rediate Amare) is a young boy living in a remote village in Ethiopia who has just one friend in the whole world, a lamb … that’s right a sheep, good for wool and, ah, good for eating. When his mother dies his world his turned upside down.
His father heads to Addis Ababa to find work and is unable to care for him, so he goes to live with relatives and with him goes his friend, the lamb. It is as if Ephraïm has been dumped into an alien environment … yes, he understands the words being spoken, but life with his aunt Emama (Welela Assefa) and his uncle Solomon (Surafel Teka) is nothing like his home.
It would be easy to simply say that filmmaker Yared Zeleke’s Lamb is about a young boy and his pet trying to survive — especially the lamb — in an unfriendly environment, especially when his uncle announces that Ephraïm will be supplying the meal for a forthcoming feast.
Yes, that’s part of the story, but parallel to the clock ticking in a life and death sense for his friend, is the story of his cousin Tsion (Kidist Siyum), who is literate and somewhat educated (by Ethiopian standards) and is under pressure to continue the traditional ways by getting married.
While these stories play out, Zeleke takes the time to introduce Western eyes to his culture and the land of Ethiopia. Little vignettes are mixed with stunning visuals (cinematography by Josée Deshaies — twice nominated for César Award for Best Cinematography: Saint Laurent and L'Apollonide) as both Ephraïm and Tsion struggle to overcome what seems to be inevitable.
Lamb is presented in Amharic with English subtitles.