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"ENDURANCE"
(1999) (Haile Gebrselassie, Yonas Zergaw) (G)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
None Minor Minor Minor Minor
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None None None None
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
None None Mild Mild Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Documentary: A young Ethiopian man sets out to become a world class runner and compete in the Olympics.
PLOT:
Born the eighth of ten children in an Ethiopian peasant farmer family, Haile Gebrselassie (YONAS ZERGAW) always runs everywhere not only because of the great distances between his activities -- such as his school being six miles away -- but also because he seems to enjoy it.

Fascinated by the outside world known only through the reception on a small transistor radio, Haile becomes fixated on other runners, such as those in the 1980 Olympic Games. That fact concerns his hard-working father (TEDESSE HAILE) who wants his boy to concentrate more on his chores, which include collecting water with his mother (SHAWANNESS GEBRSELASSIE).

Yet the years pass and Haile (HAILE GEBRSELASSIE playing himself) has continued to run and has left for Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he begins training to compete professionally. Although his father (GEBRSELASSIE BEKELE playing himself) still doesn't understand his son's continued need to run, Haile does just that. As the 1996 Atlanta Olympics approach, Haile trains as hard as he can to compete in the Games' 10,000 meter race.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Despite the G rating, they probably won't, unless they're interested in running as a sport.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: G
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • HAILE GEBRSELASSIE plays himself (with YONAS ZERGAW playing him as a boy), a dedicated, hard working boy/young man who pursues his dream and succeeds.
  • SHAWANNNESS GEBRSELASSIE plays Haile's hard working mother.
  • GEBRSELASSIE BEKELE plays himself, Haile's hardworking father (with TEDESSE HAILE playing him as a younger man) who tries to persuade his son to stay on the farm and give up his dream (that the father doesn't understand).
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
    Upon seeing long distance runners -- the type who compete in marathons and races that go even further beyond those "normal" twenty-six plus grueling miles -- the question that always immediately runs through my head is what would motivate these people to do this?

    After all, since a messenger ran from Marathon to Athens to announce a victory over the Persians several millennia ago and then died from the exertion, people have sought to make traversing great distances an easier task. Thus the advent of horseback riding, bicycles, and planes, trains and automobiles to reduce the wear and tear on one's "dogs."

    Yet people continue to run outrageous distances and various films have focused entirely or in part on these athletes. In pictures ranging from "Chariots of Fire" to the two Steve Prefontaine movies ("Without Limits" and "Prefontaine") and even "Forrest Gump" where Tom Hanks' character went for a casual -- albeit long -- run across the country, these dedicated athletes have been both casually observed and closely examined.

    Now there's "Endurance," a part documentary, part dramatic recreation hybrid that lightly focuses on the life of Haile Gebrselassie, an Ethiopian named the greatest distance runner of all time by Runners World magazine.

    Although we never learn more than superficial facts about the runner, the film is a near-perfect textbook example of the true definition of a motion picture. By that we mean a story told with pictures -- where one could turn off the sound and still easily follow the proceedings -- and in doing so this film nearly forgoes any dialogue in exchange for a mostly pure visual storytelling style.

    That said, this impressive looking film is visually intriguing, but feels a bit too manufactured to be a real documentary while it also lacks the dramatic narrative necessary to make the film more than mildly interesting. As such, the picture probably won't do much business beyond what initial curiosity might lure a few moviegoers into the theaters.

    Nonetheless, writer/director Leslie Woodhead, cinematographer Ivan Strasburg and composer John Powell have made sure that the film's looks and score stimulate the viewer enough so that despite the short runtime of eighty-some minutes, such moviegoers won't get antsy enough to compel them to make a diversionary trip to the concession stand. For the most part, the filmmakers succeed, as Strasburg's flowing tracking shots effortlessly seem to follow the always running Gebrselassie, and the upbeat, African-influenced score is the type that's both invigorating and moving.

    Unfortunately, the story itself doesn't elicit either of those adjectives. With actual footage of Gebrselassie competing in the Atlanta Olympics serving as the bookend framing of its story, the film proceeds to show the fictionalized, but superficial details of a day in the life of the runner's young world.

    Identified and labeled by on-screen titles that are just as sparsely written as any of the characters' dialogue, the story proceeds from one activity (farming) to the next (gathering water). Beyond the mother's sudden illness and death, however, and the father's mild objections to his son's athletic activity, the film contains almost no conflict. As a result -- and as is the case with any type of story -- very little drama is present, thus making for a less than captivating time watching the "events."

    In addition, other than the dramatic recreation of Gebrselassie's childhood where several characters play his family members, there's not really any acting in the cinematic sense of the word. As such, the performers come off more like historical "reenacters" or even Disney's own animatronic figures where bodies simply represent and perform like the real people, but don't bring any depth to their characters.

    In fact, and despite the inherent campiness that was present when such films were made, the film almost feels as if it needs that distinctive smooth talking narrator -- who voiced the descriptions for those old Disney nature documentaries that many of us grew up watching -- to keep things interesting. That especially holds true for young children who may be dragged to this film due to its G rating and will probably be bored silly by the proceedings that they might deem odd at best.

    Although it's easy enough for adults to sit through the film without completely feeling that way, the film's hybrid nature certainly doesn't help its cause. The slick production values and lack of narration or much in the way of facts keep it from being a true documentary, while the omission of any real dramatic thrust or conflict -- along with any chance to really get to know the protagonist -- prevents it from being as entertaining as it should have been. Thus, we give "Endurance" -- a film we found interesting but not vastly compelling -- a 4.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this G-rated film. Beyond scenes involving Haile's mother collapsing and him running for help, her then being sick and talking about dying, and then that happening (which isn't directly seen), the rest of the film has nothing in the way of major objectionable content.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • None.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • A woman picks up cow dung with her hands to move it from an animal pen.
  • We see several peasants using a thin layer of entrails (sheath-like) to make predictions.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some may see the father's continued efforts to make Haile give up his dream of being a runner as having some of both (and he does so because he doesn't understand that dream and wants his son to work on the farm like everyone else).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Haile sees his mother collapse, runs back to their farm for help, and finding none, runs back to his mother and helps her home.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • A starter pistol is used to begin a race.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • The film may inspire some kids to take up running.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • None.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • None.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Haile's mother gets sick and the boy hears her telling his father that she's going to die and not to remarry until the kids are old enough. We then see that the mother has died (but not the actual death) and see part of her funeral and everyone's reaction to her death.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Pursuing one's dream.
  • Life in other cultures and comparing how Haile grew up and what he endured to how most of today's kids in the U.S. live.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A teacher whacks Haile on his hands several times for being tardy to school (notwithstanding that the boy has to run six miles to get there every day).



  • Reviewed April 19, 1999 / Posted May 21, 1999

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