Hagereseb (US, 0:38:00)
Directed by: Zia Mohajerjasbi
Written by: Zia Mohajerjasbi
Cast: Joseph Smith, Natnael Moges, Eyobe Alemu, Rahwa Habte
It's 1997 in Seattle's Yesler Terrace where we meet Abai (Joseph Smith). The 10-year-old Eritrean boy sits at the kitchen table, where he fiddles with his Casio keyboard as his sister instructs him to be home for dinner. It'll be their last meal together before their brother Sam leaves Yesler. Sam, who has run into trouble in the neighborhood lately, is being sent back to Eritrea. It's unclear when, if ever, he'll return.
So Abai embarks on a quest for fresh batteries for the keyboard; he needs them for one last music lesson with Sam before he leaves.
'Hagereseb' underlies the rest of Abai's day: the Tigrinya phrase literally means 'place of my people,' but it's also commonly used as slang in place of 'FOB' or 'old country' within the Habesha immigrant community. Abai crosses these worlds as he goes about what should be a simple task, from the second-generation kids in the neighborhood for whom Yesler is the only home they've ever known, to mothers who lament about how their American-raised kids act. Abai is joined by his friend, Mahari (Natnael Moges), as the two traverse years, blocks and homes in search of batteries.
Throughout the day, we get a sense of Yesler Terrace as it once was. Yesler opened its doors more than 70 years ago as the nation's first racially-integrated public housing project, and is currently in the process of being demolished to make way for mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment. Hagereseb is a snapshot of childhood generally, and also a moment-in-time for Yesler that will soon be lost forever.
Hagereseb -- inspired by the real-life stories of people from Yesler Terrace -- stars Joseph Smith in his film debut, with Natnael Moges supporting. The film's cast is entirely comprised of first-time actors who live in or near the neighborhood, and it was shot over 17 days in Yesler Terrace. Hagereseb is written and directed by Zia Mohajerjasbi