A slim 70-minute running time and plodding animations suggest that filmmaker Maciek Bochniak had little to go on in terms of archival footage—or interview subjects, for that matter. Should we be surprised? The story of Ethiopia’s brief but dazzling era of deeply groovy homegrown recorded music essentially took place between different iterations of State oppression, lasting barely more than half a decade.
Our main subjects are the exiled producer Amha Eshete, who took his life in his hands when he started the country’s sole record label in 1969, and the ageing French hipster/collector Francis Falceto, whose two-decade obsession led to the Ethiopiques compilations series, here getting a kind of late entry infomercial. (The film is, frankly, a bit of a hymn to capitalism.) But that’s okay: according to Elvis Costello, one of the film’s (also slim) parade of international notables, once you’ve heard one volume, you’ll want all 32. He’s right.