Haile Gerima on current movies
Is there a film industry in Ethiopia? What do you make of the video productions that are coming in large numbers?
Some says there are some fantastic things taking shape in the young Ethiopian cinema. For others, they have simply commodity status and they are not even worth talking about.
Haile Gerima, the highly acclaimed director and a professor at Howard University, says he finds it difficult to call the current video productions real cinema.
In a discussion held at Addis Ababa University, he said hasn’t come across anything that be called cinema and has a sense of Ethiopian history and culture. He sees the productions as sit-com that revolves around single events and leaves much to be desired.
Haile said many even confuse films with theatres and show theaters with close-up and call it cinema. He said it is not easy to find actors here in Addis, as most of them had related rhythm with stage plays actors. While Haile was looking for actors for his upcoming film, he said, most of the actors who auditioned have intonation taken from the tradition of the theatre. They don’t seem to know this has anything to do with cinema.
Haile thinks some of the earliest Ethiopian films, such as Guma, Hirut Abatwa Mann new, and Aster are exceptions to the rule. Today, it saddened him that there is no support given to well- meaning directors like Taffese Jara, Solomon Bekele , Michel Papatakis, who would have produced more quality films. But, Haile said, on their part they have to create interactive battle with the young generation.
Haile argued the reason why our culture remains as a ‘dream’ is that it is because we don’t have a cinema culture, though there is the technology, amazing culture, theatre tradition.
Food for thought.