‘You know, hyenas aren’t the bad ones… These days it’s humans you should fear.’

Asalif and his mother defy the newly-built housing estate which is like all the other ones springing up all over Ethiopia and continue their life within the traditional village community: grazing their animals, tending their gardens and picking fruit off the trees. Asalif’s hut lacks electricity, but the windows of the surrounding high-rises outshine the moon at night. Asalif scours the new city’s streets for electro-junk and builds a spaceship with an engine. His mother recounts ancient legends. Real estate developers buy up more land. Asalif feels increasingly threatened, stalked by the invisible hyena that haunts the area. With a sensitive grasp of her protagonist’s emotional reality, the documentary filmmaker and camerawoman Mo Scarpelli traces Asalif’s transformation into Anbessa, the lion.
by Mo Scarpelli
with Asalif Tewold, Alem Sebisibe Ayitenfsu
USA / Italy 2019 Amharic,  Subtitles: English 85’ Colour World premiere Documentary form recommendation: 8 years and up


  • Asalif Tewold
  • Alem Sebisibe Ayitenfsu


Written and directed byMo Scarpelli
CinematographyMo Scarpelli
EditingNico Leunen, Thomas Pooters
MusicErik K. Skodvin
Sound DesignTijn Hazen
ColouristAharon Rothschild, Nice Dissolve
ProducersCaitlin Mae Burke, Mo Scarpelli
Executive ProducersDanielle Perissi, Gelila Bekele
Co-producerD.D. Wigley
Associate ProducerPierce Varous

Produced by

Rake Films

Brooklyn, USA

+1 416 8649659

Rake Films

Rom, Italy

World sales

Sweet Spot Docs

Blonay, Switzerland

Mo Scarpelli

Born in Michigan, USA in 1986, the Italian-American director and cinematographer works in non-fiction film. Her first feature-length documentary, Frame by Frame, screened at SXSW 2015, the BFI London Film Festival and over 100 other festivals. It won numerous jury and audience awards as well as a Cinema Eye Honors nomination. A Berlinale Talents Alumna from 2018, she is a two-time recipient of Catapult Film Fund support.

Filmography (documentaries)

2012 Surviving Kensington 2015 Frame by Frame 2016 El Hara 2018 Anbessa

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019


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