Ethiopia – Welcome to Addywood

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Hand in hand with the highest economic growth among African countries, Ethiopian cinema is today booming: more than 700 movies produced in the latest ten years, a fifth just in 2016. Film budgets rarely exceed $20,000 but profits can reach up five times the investment: an economic performance which is making Ethiopian movie industry a promising sector. In Addis Ababa, cinema has become an element of landscape: colorful film posters cover every street wall, and it’s easy to come across groups of people standing in line for hours in order to watch one of the most recent local successes. In the numerous newly opened cinema halls – symbol of a wellbeing for which young Ethiopians crave – local movies have wiped out Hollywood and Bollywood competition. In spite of Government’s censorship, which pushes producers to prefer commercial movies, a new generation of film-makers is rising. They don’t dream anymore to flee abroad, but want to be actors in the cultural renaissance of their country. Thanks to its striking popularity this new Ethiopian cinema could well give expression to Ethiopian people’s need for greater freedom and equity.

 

“Gumma awards” took place in Addis Ababa’s National Theatre for the first time in 2014, and quickly transformed themselves in a glamorous window for the celebration of the Ethiopian star systemEthiopian film stars Messeret Meberate and Zinahbzu Tsegaye at the film premiere of Thomas Gethacew’s Tsenu, at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis AbabaThe Color of the Nile International Film Festival (Coniff) opening ceremony, at the Addis Ababa National TheatreGumma awards take its name from “Gumma” -M. Papatakis, 1974- a movie which Ethiopians never had the chance to watch since the only existing copy is kept in the Ethiopian National ArchiveThe entrance of the “Cinema Empire”, one of the oldest and largest hall in townA film shop in the Piassa area of Addis Ababa. Many film shops use to have a small screening room in their backyard, where movies (in pirated copies) could be watched for very cheap entry feesMichael Papatakis, considered the father of Ethiopian cinema. As director, he produced a visual archive about Ethiopia that still struggles to be appropriately recognizedWafa Cinema, the oldest cinema house in Addis Ababa. Local people considered cinema as the devil’s creation for long time and named this hall Seitan bet (the devil’s house)Backstage work during the CONIFF. The development of the Ethiopian film industry over the past few years has created many job opportunities for the local youthAddis Ababa National TheatreA shop in the commercial hub for VCD distribution in Ethiopia, Merkato district of Addis AbabaInterview session for the EBS TV channel, Gumma awards’ official media partner based in Washington DC, the city in the world with the largest community of Ethiopians diasporaThe entrance of the Cinema Ethiopia. While 10 years ago, Addis Ababa was left with only a few old cinemas still running, today there are more than 20 new hallsCine Majestic, in Dire DawaThe red carpet used during the Coniff presentationA film screening at the Allatinos association, the association of young Ethiopian filmmakers, at the Russian Cultural Centre in Addis AbabaThe Ethiopian film star Berukan Befkadu at the film premiere of Thomas Gethacew’s Tsenu, Sheraton Hotel in Addis AbabaAddis Ababa National TheatreConiff awards ceremonyEthiopian pluri-awarded cinematographer Abraham Haile Biru during a workshop at the Blue Nile Film and Television AcademyConiff awards ceremonyThe shooting of Lamsek Genesh by Mahmood Daud, in front of a monument built during the Derg regimePresenting a rich selection of international films, Coniff also tries to open up the Ethiopian film culture to external narrative models that could positively influence its future developmentsThe Ethiopian film actor and producer Sarawit Fikr in his company’s studios. Fikr is today one of the best know actors and producers in the countryThe growth of the Ethiopian film industry has also a strong impact on the city landscape, with colorful film posters and advertising materials now exhibited at every street cornerConiff awards ceremony at Addis Ababa National TheatreThe film premiere of Thomas Gethacew’s Tsenu at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis AbabaThe commercial hub for VCD distribution in Ethiopia, at Merkato district of Addis AbabaConiff jury presentation. This is the first international film festival in Africa’s diplomatic capitalA dvd shop in the Gulele district, Addis AbabaStudents of the Blue Nile Film and Television Academy (BNFTA) during a workshopThe shooting of Lamsek Genesh by Mahmood DaudEthiopian film director and producer Yonas Berhane, the organizer of the Gumma Awards. This US-trained filmmaker is one of the most prolific in the countryConiff presentation at Addis Ababa National TheatreThe shooting of Lamsek Genesh by Mahmood Daud on Churchil road, Addis AbabaConiff awards ceremony

A braccetto con la crescita economica più alta e stabile tra i Paesi africani, il cinema etiope è in pieno “boom”: oltre 700 film prodotti negli ultimi dieci anni, un quinto solo nel 2016. Budget ancora modesti, che superano di rado 20mila dollari, ma profitti che possono arrivare fino a 5 volte il capitale investito. Un settore molto promettente per la massa di giovani etiopi disoccupati. Il cinema è ormai parte integrante del panorama cittadino: ogni muro di Addis Abeba è tappezzato da colorati poster cinematografici, ed è facile imbattersi in lunghe code di persone pronte ad attendere ore pur di vedere uno degli ultimi successi locali. Nei sempre più numerosi cinema multisala – simbolo di una prosperità di cui i giovani etiopi sono affamati – la produzione locale ha sbaragliato la concorrenza di Hollywood e Bollywood. Nonostante la forte censura governativa, che spinge i produttori verso pellicole commerciali, in Etiopia sta nascendo una nuova generazione di registi, che non sogna più di fuggire all’estero ma vuole invece contribuire alla rinascita culturale del proprio Paese. Grazie alla sua energia esplosiva e alla grande popolarità, il nuovo cinema etiope potrebbero dare espressione ai bisogni di maggiore libertà ed equità della popolazione.

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