Life is a race, for some more than others. Haile Gebrselassie has been called "the greatest runner in history", and his life-story, depicted in the docu-drama Endurance, is one of his determination from a young age and of inspiration for everyone else.
Leslie Woodhead takes a novel approach to the documentary genre and visually presents a story that leaves a far greater impression on the audience. There are no voiceovers and hardly any "interviews", rather Haile's life is told through dramatic reconstruction using "actors". Dialogue is kept to the bare minimum while the camera follows the characters, which mostly includes Haile's father, mother, brothers and sisters, as they go about their normal lives in poverty stricken and war-torn Ethiopia as farmers. The use of regional music adds to the appeal of the film and the occasional soundtrack of Haile's breathing while running has a certain rhythmic appeal to it. While the film utilizes substitutes for actual people, the authenticity is maintained as Woodhead sticks to a documentary like approach to camera work.
Born to a farming family in Ethiopia, Haile was one of 10 brothers and sisters who would run barefoot to school each day, a distance of 6 miles. What really stands out about Haile and his family is the zest in them to take life head on. There is almost a certain pride in the work they do, taking it as part of life chosen for them, and performing their duties to maintain their daily life. To rise above this and reach the heights that Haile has reached is the endurance that only a few can achieve. Endurance is also the theme across the other characters; be it the mother who while giving birth on a regular basis continues to raise children, perform daily household chores, and along with Haile travels 3 hours each day to get water or even his semi-authoritarian disapproving father who only has the benefit of his family at his heart so that his children can grow up and become something.
The documentary also is a look at the life of people in Ethiopia. Their faith, religion, superstitions, beliefs, spiritualism and a sense of community highlighted when everyone gets together to help each other during harvesting season. The film also has an equal dose emotional elements; There are heartwarming moments revolving around Haile's mother and especially when she falls sick and requests her husband not to re-marry till the children have grown up to take care of themselves. The subtle matchmaking and blossoming of love that takes place between Haile and Alem (later to become his wife) in Adisa Ababa, where Haile moves to train, is endearing to say the least. There are moments of gentle humor like when Haile's father (Bekele Gebrselassie) visits him in Adisa Ababa and on asking if he is tired Bekele replies, "Why? The bus did all the driving".
The story ends with Haile participating in the Atlanta Olympic finals. As he runs, his life flashes before his eyes in a moment of euphoria and determination. His dreams and aspirations all narrow down to that one moment in his life while everything he has endured as a child act as fuel giving him the power to carry on.
Endurance celebrates the life of a true sportsperson and brings to light, more apt now with the oncoming Olympics, that each person participating has a story behind them, a goal that they are trying to achieve after facing numerous hardships and sacrifices, with only a belief in themselves guiding them through to attain that lifelong dream.
Celebrate sportsmanship and the Olympics with Endurance.
DVD Information : Endurance
Release Date 9 July 2012
Running Time 78 minutes