Film

Endurance

by

In Leslie Woodhead’s lengthy, understated docudrama,
Endurance
, Ethiopian distance superstar Haile Gebrselassie appears as himself, reenacting moments from his Sports
Illustrated
–ready biography, while his own homespun
aphorisms (“If God doesn’t help you, your work is nothing,” he says, apropos of nothing) and thrill-of-victory footage unspool in the background. Woodhead brings an ethnographic take to the familiar runner’s mythos of near
mystical equanimity in the
face of pain. The film was shot on location in Ethiopia and
local actors (many of them
real-life family members)
re-create scenes from Gebrselassie’s childhood. With nonactors playing themselves, Endurance is subject to occasional stiffness, but the subject’s ability to, well, endure becomes the stuff of high drama in
actual races shot by Olympic view-master Bud Greenspan. Asked about his discipline,
Gebrselassie says all the right things, intoning about faith and God, but it’s when he runs that those words take on their true meaning.