Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square

The Athlete

Year: 2009
Language: English, Amharic
Run Time: 93 minutes

The Athlete
The Athlete

Abebe Bikila is on a journey, traversing the great nation of Ethiopia in his Volkswagen Beetle. He is THE ATHLETE – the heroic winner of two Olympic gold medals for marathon running (1960 in Rome and 1964 in Tokyo). Of strong character and superhuman endurance, Bikila spent his youth running on Ethiopia's Abyssinian plateau, following Mussolini's takeover. His 1960 victory in Rome was doubly sensational – not only was it the first gold medal won by an African athlete, but also he ran the marathon barefoot. After Ethiopians had suffered so much under the Italians, his triumph at the Coliseum caused jubilation. But now, in 1969, Bikila loses concentration and crashes his car. Tragically, the accident leaves him a paraplegic. Still, his perseverance never wanes and he soldiers on to compete internationally as an archer and a dog-sled musher. Abebe Bikila's quiet dignity became a symbol of hope for a continent struggling for self-determination. The saying goes: "It took 500,000 Italian soldiers to occupy Ethiopia, but just one Ethiopian soldier to conquer Rome." (In English and Amharic with subtitles) – B.B.

CIFF34 Screenings

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 9:45 PM

Rasselas Lakew, Davey Frankel, Mikael Awake

Rasselas Lakew, Davey Frankel

Rasselas Lakew is an Ethiopian-American who attended Montana State University film school in the early 90s and is now a New York City-based filmmaker. He plays the role of Abebe Bikila. Davey Frankel is an American filmmaker and audiovisual artist based in Berlin. His work in film and music has been shown in museums, film festivals, and concert halls worldwide.


Davey Frankel, Rasselas Lakew, Darryn Welch

Rodney Taylor, Toby Moore, Philip Pfeiffer, Radoslav Spassov

Davey Frankel, Matt Mayer

Principal Cast
Rasselas Lakew, Dag Malmberg, Ruta Gedmintas, Abba Dessalegn

Film Contact

This film is presented with the generous support of DR. BRIAN KIRKLAND.

Community Partner

Karamu House

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