Washington DC Independent Film Festival 2015
Hot Docs, Cleveland, Sun Valley, Tallgrass, Denver, Palm Beach, BendFilm, United Nations Association
A man takes a stand against an ancient tribal practice.
The Karo (or Kara) people of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley have long held onto a superstitious belief called mingi, which views physical disability, or unusual conditions of birth, as a curse that must be snuffed out lest it somehow infect the rest of the tribe. As a consequence, children born out of wedlock, physically deformed, twins, or whose upper teeth emerge before their lower teeth are put to death or separated from the tribe and left to die by exposure. This heartbreaking practice continued until the interventions of Lale Labuko, a young Karo tribesman who received a formal education outside of the tribe and later returned, offering to adopt mingi children himself and calling on tribal elders to end the tradition. Over several years, Rowe documents Labuko’s mission to change the culture of his people and to rescue the unwanted children. While the film lacks dynamism, adopting a slow-paced, direct-to-camera oral history approach that robs it of urgency, it is well-shot and hopeful, allowing it to connect with audiences.