Town of Runners

Institute History


Town Of Runners is a feature documentary about young runners from Bekoji - an Ethiopian highland town which has produced some of the world's greatest distance athletes, including world and Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu.

Made by award winning director Jerry Rothwell, the film tells the stories of three teenagers - Alemii, Hawii and Biruk - who dream of following in their heroes’ footsteps. The film follows three years in their lives as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood. Set against the background of the seasonal rhythms of this farming region, and the impact of increased urbanization and globalization, Town Of Runners is a unique insight shows rural young Africans, living between tradition and the modern world, as they strive to build their own future.

Running has become a way of life for young people in Ethiopia’s Southern Highlands. The small town of Bekoji holds few opportunities beyond subsistence agriculture, particularly for girls, but inspired by its world champion athletes, teenagers like Alemi, Hawii and Biruk have set their sights on running their way into a different future. Their stories are set against the backdrop of a rural Ethiopia that is undergoing enormous changes as traditional ways of life are transformed by globalization. The recent arrival of television and the internet, combined with the development of roads and mobile phone connections by the Chinese, places this generation’s teenagers on the borders between tradition and modernity. The film delves into the children’s lives to understand the significance of running for them – to create a portrait of Ethiopian youth seen not through the standard lens of poverty and famine, but one of ambition and hope.

— Jerry Rothwell


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