The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Lecture - Introduction to Ethiopian Cinema
Michael W. Thomas
Tuesday 10th February 2015
7:00pm, Room G3, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG - Public lecture (all welcome)
Since the early-to-mid 2000s, Ethiopia has experienced a phenomenal growth in the production of locally made video films. Much like the video film industries that have emerged in other African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania, the Ethiopian industry has adopted a commercially driven model. Films use Amharic, the lingua-franca of the country, as their main language, are funded by small-scale independent production companies (often emerging from video and music vending enterprises), are shot in digital format and target mainly the local urban, lower-middle class youth of Addis Ababa.
Unlike in other African contexts the Ethiopian video film industry has adopted a straight to cinema model with many filmmakers and producers often wary of the VCD's vulnerability to piracy. Coinciding with the growth of the video film industry has been the proliferation of private cinema's that attract Addis' lower-middle class who make up the majority of cinema-goers in the country.
This introductory presentation will trace the developments of cinema in Ethiopia from its induction into the country and the first Ethiopian productions under Haile Selassie's reign to the committed government support of film production, distribution and exhibition under the Derg regime. Following the disbanding of the Ethiopian Film Corporation post Derg, the popular video film industry took hold after a ban on VHS and DVD screenings in cinemas was lifted. Drawing upon both ethnographic research, interviews with filmmakers and close readings of important films this presentation will hopefully give a concise history of Ethiopian cinema and offer alternative perspectives of the industry through rare insights into the diverse experiences films portray.