A Zekarias Mesfin ‘Ewir Amora Kelabi’ (based on true story) premieres at the African Film Festival in New York City, NY on May 5, 2017

By Roberta Bell (CBC News) |

As Zekarias Mesfin traversed the Sahara Desert on foot, he held on to the hope that he was slowly trudging towards a better life.

Born in Ethiopia, he was orphaned at 14 years old. He’d already walked from Eritrea — where he lived when his father disappeared and his mother died — to Sudan.

He’d worked for a pittance as a barber’s apprentice, saving his meager earnings because he’d heard that with $2,000, someone would be able to sneak him into Israel.

Of the other men and women with whom he shared that goal, he’d seen many robbed by gangsters and left alone under the sweltering sun to die of dehydration.

He eventually made it to Egypt, where he was crammed into a car with other refugees. He was arrested and thrown in jail en route to his final destination.

Recounting his story brings tears to Zekarias Mesfin’s eyes, as he sits in the living room of his sunny Edmonton home. His wife, Nardos Tadesse, is making coffee in the kitchen and his two young sons are playing upstairs.

“It’s very painful,” he said, apologizing for becoming overcome with emotion.

But Zekarias Mesfin, now 32, wants others to know what he went through, why he crossed borders illegally and why he’s grateful to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and to Canada for helping him to start over.

So he wrote about his journey. Then he went back to Ethiopia where he connected with Sabisa Films, which helped turn his story into a movie.

The movie, Ewir Amora Kelabi, takes its name from a phrase, that when translated loosely, refers to a higher spiritual power guiding the lost. The film will premiere on May 5 at the prestigious African Film Festival in New York City.

“I lost many, many friends. They tried to leave like me,” Zekarias said. “They didn’t succeed and their dream is not coming true.

“I made this film for them.”

Between September 2015 and March 2016, Mesfin traveled back to East Africa to film at the places he was forced to leave when he was younger.

Continue reading this story on CBC News
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