A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations – and Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today.
From Mexican-Ethiopian director and cinematographer Jessica Beshir, Faya Dayi is a lyrical spiritual journey into the rituals and trade practices of Khat, a stimulant green leaf that – according to Ethiopian legend – was founded by Sufi Imams in search of eternity.
A hypnotic blend of documentary and drama, this immersive experience weaves a tapestry of intimate stories of people for whom chewing the lucrative crop has become both a radical escape and a space of socialisation and revolt against oppressive forces. For the unemployed, oppressed youth and elders alike, the high achieved from Khat (the state of Merkhana) is the only place where their hopes, dreams and aspirations can live.
The film premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the prestigious World Cinema – Documentary award.
“The painterly black-and-white gives Faya Dayi the feeling of a memory, mournful and yet beautiful. Beshir thinks like a portrait painter, or a still-life artist… a slow accumulation of sensory information” Roger Ebert Review.