Teddy (Eskindir Tameru) is a cab driver whose life finally seems to be on the right track. Giving up his vices of gambling, drinking alcohol, and chewing khat, he spends his days working towards paying off his taxi licence. While waiting for fares outside a local nightclub, Teddy inadvertently gets involved in a dispute between the beautiful Fere (Fereweni Gebregergs) and Abba (Solomon Teka). Similar to Teddy’s deceased mother, who was lured to Dubai under the promise of fortunes, Fere makes a living as a prostitute, but is tired of working under the abusive hand of Abba.

When the humble driver agrees to help Fere flee from the violent pimp, his life quickly takes a series of unexpected turns. Not only does Abba hold his taxi for ransom, in exchange for the woman, but Teddy must also deal with his growing feelings for Fere. Considering the downward spiral he had after his mother passed away, Teddy struggles with whether or not to pursue a relationship with Fere. Would it force him into relapse? Is she really worth losing his entire livelihood over?

Price of Love is one of those films whose charm and overall spirit is downright infectious. It is very reminiscent of the kinds of independent works that came out in the 70’s, as its focus, passion and vibrancy overshadow its rougher edges. The film may not have a lot of money behind it, which is evident as certain scenes run longer than they should, but director Hermon Hailay makes the most of the resources she has to work with. Her use colour not only bring life to the landscape and people within Ethiopia, but also adds a nice texture to the central dilemma Teddy faces.

Where the film really shines is in the way it blends the charming love story at the core with a strong social message. Primarily a tale about the choices people make, Price of Love offers an engaging commentary on poverty in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Hailay takes audiences deep into a society where prostitution is not simply a means for quick cash, it is often the only option many women have. In one scene Hailay’s camera follows Abba as he goes out recruiting new talent. The impoverished women flock to him as if he was a pope handing out financial blessings. While not condoning the profession of prostitution, Hailay does a wonderful job of humanizing the women working with in it. She reminds us that women like Fere are human beings and should be treated as such. Their need for love and a hopeful future burns just as passionately as it does in everyone else – cab drivers, musicians, priests, etc.

Price of Love effectively announces Hermon Hailay as a female filmmaker to keep an eye one. Despite the limited resources she had to work with, she has crafted a film that exudes beauty and charm. Though its edges are rough, Price of Love’s passion shines brightly.

Thursday, September 17, 6:15 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, September 18, 12:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre

Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.