The Athlete

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A documentary about a man who became a legend: Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian marathon runner who won the Rome Olympics in 1960, running the whole race course without shoes and winning the first Olympic gold medal on the African continent. Become a national hero, he did not disappoint even four years later, when he replied the winnings at the Tokyo Olympics, despite having been operated by appendicitis a few weeks before. A few years later, however, everything changes due to a bad accident that put a strain on his fortitude, forcing him to face the biggest challenge of his life.
Told through reconstruction and archive footage, the story of Ethiopian marathon legend Abebe Bikila can’t muster the drama it deserves. The first African to win a gold when he ran barefoot through Rome in 1960, he became the first to retain a marathon title, winning in Tokyo in 64, before a car accident led to his recuperation at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in England.
Rasselas Lakew plays Bikila with a handsome, quiet dignity but, despite some ravishing running shots on the Abyssinian plateau, the film never has the sense of purpose its subject clearly had. It also omits to mention perhaps Bikila – as the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s Marathon Man.
The Athlete is a 2009 Ethiopian drama film directed by Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew. The film was selected as the Ethiopian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist. It was the first Ethiopian film to be submitted in the category for Best Foreign Language Film. The film has been reviewed in an international journal.
This film will be featured at the Italian Cultural institute on Tuesday September 24.