These days there is much going on in African filmmaking. Variety seems to be the only trade which covers the continent in a fairly consistent way. If Ron Burkle succeeds in buying it, there will be more good news coming from the near moribund trade paper. But read this article from August 6-12 on the ongoing activities of these African nations; it’s heartening. It includes Tom Twyker’s efforts in Nairobi, the Berlin Talent Campus in Durban, American Lee Isaac Chung’s Almond Tree in Rwanda (where its Film Festival is currently taking place), Mira Nair’s Maisha Film Lab in Kampala, Focus’ ongoing shorts production program Africa First.
Not covered in the article is The International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) and the Ethiopian Film Initiative (EFI). Three talented young Ethiopian Filmmakers Henok Mebratu, Olisarali Olibui and Yidnekachew Shumete had a once-in a–lifetime experience when they spent a week in Monte Carlo and at the Cannes Film Festival, attending film screenings and premieres, participating in meetings, workshops, and seminars, and being feted at dinners and parties, and presenting their own work. Participants of an educational program sponsored by chosen after a rigorous competition among fellow Ethiopian filmmakers, the trio had the opportunity for the filmmakers to meet a range of influential distributors, sales agents, producers, directors and international film commissioners at the festival, and also for them to be given one-on-one sessions with film institutions, consultants, established producing & co-producing entities, and international distribution companies. I was happy giving them an in-depth tour of the market where we were able to spot the sales agents with interest in African films and to talk with several of them.
Ambassador Tadelech Haile-Michael, a founding member of the EFI in Ethiopia, welcomed the news, calling it a chance to raise the international profile of Ethiopian films. “This is a great opportunity for Ethiopian filmmakers to establish themselves in the international marketplace,” she said. “I am also delighted they will be able to present some images of our beautiful Ethiopian landscapes and culture, and show the rest of the world what an attractive location Ethiopia can be for international filmmakers.”
The filmmakers were selected from a significant group of applicants emerging from Ethiopia’s nascent film community. The criteria for participation mandates that the filmmaker be an Ethiopian national living and working in Ethiopia at least 6 months of the year and have produced or directed one fiction or documentary short or feature film. Prior to the filmmakers’ arrival in Cannes, they stopped in Monte Carlo – the home of the IEFTA – for preparation meetings as well as a benefit event, on May 19th, where their films were screened.
“This is the second time the IEFTA has brought filmmakers from Ethiopia to Cannes, and we are extremely excited about the caliber of this year’s finalists,” says Marco Orsini, current President of the IEFTA. “It demonstrates that there is a growing film market and community in Ethiopia that should be taken seriously. We are also very pleased in the partnership we have had with the Ethiopian Film Initiative which provides on the ground training in Addis Ababa and are looking forward to expanding our programs into other parts of the developing world.”
Henok Mebratuis an experienced filmmaker and a well-known figure among the Ethiopian creative community. His talents include directing documentaries and teaching media skills. In Cannes he will present a new movie drama he is working on. It tells the story of Kidist and Dawit, who were both raised abroad and whose lives are completely transformed by returning to Ethiopia to say farewell to their dying father.
Olisarali Olibui Tongolu co-produced an award-winning film, “Shooting with the Mursi”, which gives an intriguing insider’s view of his own tribe. In Cannes he will pitch his next project proposal “My Enemy, My Brother”. Filming has already started on this project, which will focus on issues facing neighboring tribes of the Mursi. The themes to be covered include uncontrolled tourism, climate change and land rights.
Yidnekachew Shumete Desalegn is a widely respected film director in Addis Ababa, as well as a cameraman, editor, teacher and scriptwriter. He has worked extensively in both fiction and documentary films. His first feature film “Siryet” (2007), achieved widespread popularity. In Cannes he will pitch his upcoming film “Nishan” or Medal of Honour. It tells the story of Nishan, a young girl, who receives the rare opportunity of a visa to go abroad and change her life for the better. However, perplexing problems soon beset her.
“We’re very proud of our 2012 Ethiopian Film Initiative finalists,” states Mitch Levine, IEFTA Executive Consultant. “These filmmakers have demonstrated a passion for their art, excellence in filmmaking and a commitment to the advancement of Ethiopia’s – and Africa’s – filmmaking community. We are thrilled to host them for a week of education, workshops and screenings at the Cannes Film Festival and at the IEFTA’s base in Monaco.”
The IEFTA and EFI form an international / Ethiopian partnership committed to raising the professional standards of the Ethiopian film industry. The EFI provides capacity building support for Ethiopian documentary and feature film producers and directors as well as encouraging and training local and international entities to use local filmmakers.
The IEFTA – through its Global Film Expression and programs like the Ethiopian Film Initative – is dedicated to the discovery, nurture and promotion of filmmakers throughout the developing world. The IEFTA has been supporting Emerging talent since 2006 and has been specifically supporting Ethiopian film since 2008.
The VIP fund-raising event was held at a beautiful Belle Époque villa in the heart of Monte Carlo which was covered in an Architectural Digest feature on the Villa Nocturne mansion.