UPDATE: Haile Gerima’s campaign to fund his latest film, “Yetut Lij,” has launched. Find the details below, followed by a brand new video-taped interview with ReelBlack, in which the filmmaker talks about the project in more detail, as well as tackles the much-ballyhooed “black new wave in film” question, and more.
Wonderfully uncompromising, revered, veteran Ethiopian filmmaker, and member of the Los Angeles School of Black Film Makers 1970’s movement (a collective that also included the likes of Charles Burnett & Julie Dash), as well as professor of film at Howard University, Haile Gerima, will be launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign next week Monday, to produce his new feature film – the first since 2008’s critically-acclaimed “Teza”.
The self-described “third-world independent filmmaker,” has, for four decades, dedicated himself to independent cinema, making films that focus on the African diasporic experience, that are typically antithetical to classic and mainstream Hollywood productions. He’s a filmmaker whose name mentioned anywhere, always gets my attention, and it will always be news when he’s directing a new film.
So it’s with pleasure (and hope that it’s successful) that I alert you to the crowdfunding campaign for Mr Gerima’s next work, a drama titled “Yetut Lij” – an Amharic term that describes a child raised by someone other than their biological parent.
The story takes place in 1960’s Ethiopia, 20 years after the Italian occupation. Aynalem, a 13-year-old peasant girl, gets adopted by a wealthy judge’s family and taken away from her own, with the promise of an educated upbringing and a better life. Contrary to this promise, she is instead forced to work as a domestic servant. Yet, despite the close watch and cruelty of her employers, she meets and falls in love with an ordinary police man, named Tilahun.Though, he manages to help her escape her circumstances, Tilahun finds Aynalem years later, in the clutches of another formidable captor.
During a month-long Indiegogo campaign, Gerima aims to raise $500,000 in matching production funds, the
minimum needed to match existing co-production funds and film on location in Ethiopia.
Gerima’s prospective feature will be his 12th film and 8th dramatic narrative. Like his past films, YETUT LIJ
implicates the struggle of marginalized and oppressed people of color, in this case, women and girls, who
are trafficked, exploited and enslaved all over the world.
The film’s title is an Amharic term that usually refers to any child taken in and raised by someone, other than
their biological parent. Set primarily in Gerima’s childhood town of Gondar, the story takes place in the
1960’s, some 20 years after the Italo-Ethiopian War. Aynalem, a 13 year old peasant girl, is adopted by a
wealthy judge’s family and taken away from her own. Promised an educated upbringing and a better life, she
is instead, brutalized and forced to work as a domestic servant.
A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Gerima has spent over 40 years making
independent films of “ substance and bold expression” (THE WASHINGTON POST). Having worked
alongside other independent filmmakers, like Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry and Larry Clark, Gerima has
mastered the production of high value, low budget films, outside of commercial and mainstream institutions.
Although this is Gerima’s first campaign on crowdfunding platforms, the writer, director and producer insists
that “Crowdfunding is not new to me.” Crediting the grassroots efforts that made BUSH MAMA (1979) and
SANKOFA (1993) possible, Gerima emphasizes that “None of my past films would have been possible
without the community who said, ‘I want to see this film happen.’”
With this June’s campaign on Indiegogo,
Gerima expects to reach a new, and younger audience hungry for films like his, while activating the loyal
base of supporters that made his previous works possible.
Gerima has been a distinguished professor of film at Howard University, since 1975. He and his wife,
filmmaker Shirikiana Aina, own a video bookstore, across from the main campus, which serves as a cultural
space for other local artists, as well as a base of operations for their production and distribution companies.
Watch his sit-down with ReelBlack below, split into 3 parts: