Oct 3 Visiting Filmmakers Series: Jessica Beshir with Faya Dayi

Monday, October 3, 2022 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT
Johnson Center, Cinema

Join us  for a screening and discussion of the extraordinary documentary, Faya Dayi, with filmmaker Jessica Beshir. 


At once poetic and incisive, Mexican Ethiopian artist Jessica Beshir's film explores the complex worlds of khat, a euphoria-inducing and addictive plant once valued for its purportedly mystical properties. Shot in exquisite black and white, the documentary offers a dreamlike experience for viewers as it also presents the intertwined economic, social, and political histories of the crop. To make the film, Beshir returned to Harar, Ethiopia, which she and her family were forced to leave in the midst of ethnic violence, when she was a teenager. The result is a profound mediation on loss and aspiration, labor and beauty, ritual and commodification, and a documentary unlike any other. 

"Filmed in luminous black and white, each image more beautiful than the last, Faya Dayi is not your typical documentary," writes Sheila O'Malley. "...The mostly disembodied voices draw you in further, deeper, than they might have with an ordinary "talking head" interview. Instead of "hearing" the stories, you "feel" them. Beshir doesn't just show the audience what she sees. She's up to something more profound. She helps you to see, not the surface of things, but their essences..." 

The Criterion Collection describes the film this way:

"A sublime work of personal vision, the debut feature by the Mexican Ethiopian filmmaker Jessica Beshir is a hypnotic documentary immersion in the world of Ethiopia’s Oromo and Harari communities, places where one commodity -- khat, a euphoria-inducing plant once prized for its supposedly mystical properties--- holds sway over the rituals and rhythms of everyday life.

As if under the influence of the drug itself, Faya Dayi unfurls as intoxicating, trance state cinema, capturing intimate moments in the existence of everyone from the harvesters of the crop to people lost in its narcotic haze to a desperate but determined younger generation searching for an escape from the region’s political strife.

The film's exquisite monochrome cinematography and time-bending, elliptical editing create a ravishing sensory experience that hovers between consciousness and dreaming." (Criterion Collection)

Faya Dayi broadcast premiere: Aug 29. PBS' POV Series


Jessica Beshir is a Mexican-Ethiopian writer, director, producer and cinematographer based in Brooklyn. Her feature directorial debut, Faya Dayi, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and screened around the world garnering many awards including the Grand Jury Prize & Fipresci Award at Visions du Reel, the Grand Jury Award at Full Frame, the Truer Than Fiction Film Independent Spirit award and the best cinematography awards at the ASC, IDA & DOC NYC among others. Her early short films, Hairat, He Who Dances on Wood and Heroin have played in festivals including IDFA & Hot Docs. Beshir has been honored with grant support from The Sundance Film Institute, the Doha Film Institute and the Jerome Foundation.

See Faya Dayi site here.

See Jessica Beshir site here.

#VisitingFilmmakersSeries #FilmAtMason #FayaDayi 

For more information: 

Anjuli Singh, asingh80@gmu.edu, Exhibitions and Office Coordinator, Film at Mason

Cynthia Fuchs cfuchs@gmu.edu, Director, Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason; Interim Director, Film at Mason

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