He's Still Fast

This is the 21 minute version of He's Still Fast.
Tolassa was an elite runner in Ethiopia before being thrown into prison for speaking out against human rights abuses on his ethnic group. When he was released from prison he fled the country to save his life. 12 years later, he is a newly resettled refugee in Dallas, Texas, asking his case worker in broken English how he can sign up to compete in a half marathon. This film follows Tolassa’s first year in America, as his ambition to reclaim his dream of competing takes him all the way to the New York City Marathon. Through his pursuit he finds more than just a race. He finds community.

  • Andrew Holzschuh
    Director
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    21 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 28, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    2,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2.33.1
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Austin Film Festival
    austin tx
    United States
    October 27, 2019
    world
    short doc finalist
  • Lone Star Film Festival
    fort worth tx
    United States
    November 14, 2019
    north texas
    official selection
  • Justice Film Festival
    new york city
    United States
    November 16, 2019
    new york premiere
    official selection
Director Biography - Andrew Holzschuh

I was first attracted to filmmaking at the age of 15, when I realized I could create my own stop motion films with my parents’ point and shoot camera. At 18 I turned that hobby into a business and while attending film school, I continued to make stop motion films in my parents’ garage. My goal back then was to some day make feature length movies and today that's still my goal. I’ve been a freelance filmmaker for the past ten years making short films and documentaries for a variety of companies and organizations.
In 2012 I married my highschool sweetheart. A few years later we decided to leave our jobs and our home town to walk a continuous 2,600 mile path through desert and mountains from Mexico to Canada. My experience on the pacific crest trail changed my life. My identity as a filmmaker transformed into my identity as a human. Today I realize what I do as an artist does not define me. And I think that makes me a better artist than I used to be. What I find most fulfilling about my work is getting to be an avenue for someone to share their voice and their truth. I also enjoy helping viewers put themselves in the shoes of others. Empathy is one thing our world will never have enough of. And I am excited to take part in an artform that helps people develop a better understanding of their fellow brothers and sisters on this small home we call Earth.

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Director Statement

I’ve had a heart for refugees since I first learned about them in 2010. I remember a whole world which I did not know being unveiled as I watched the film “God Grew Tired of Us”. That movie introduced me to a new definition of resilience. Shortly after, I was inspired to help film a documentary about a refugee from Burma resettled to a neighborhood called Vickery Meadow in Dallas, Texas. Since then I've continued to be drawn to the people of this neighborhood and their ability to overcome adversity regardless of the challenges they’ve been presented before even getting to this country.
Over the years I’ve volunteered with several organizations and made three films about refugee life in Vickery Meadow. While volunteering at the International Rescue Committee in 2018, I heard about a newly resettled Ethiopian refugee named Tolassa. He was an elite runner back in Ethiopia, but had to flee due to harsh political persecution. And here he was in Dallas, Texas trying to navigate the running community and return to competitive running without knowing who to go to. As a runner I was well aware of the time commitment a marathon or even half-marathon required, not to mention at a competitive level. I was also familiar with the numerous challenges and barriers a newly resettled refugee faces. Tolassa’s dream of entering the competitive running world would be far from easy, regardless of his raw talent. I knew I had to meet this guy. But even more, I knew he needed all the help he could get.
What started as volunteering to take a few pictures at his first half marathon in the US, turned into a year long journey getting to witness Tolassa reclame his dream to be a competitive long distance runner. My hope for anyone watching this film is that they are not only inspired to pursue their dreams in the face of adversity but that they grow a deeper empathy for those who have had their dreams unjustly taken away.