Addis to Cannes: Filmmakers from Ethiopia at 2014 Film Festival

Ethiopian filmmakers in Monaco and Cannes learning the trade

Five young filmmakers, four of them women, came for a weeklong visit to Monaco and Cannes during the 2014 Film Festival participating in workshops and events including a Benefit Party in the Principality. This was made possible thanks to the unwavering work of the Monaco based International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) in collaboration with the Ethiopian Film Initiative (EFI), along their new partner and sponsor Better World Film Festival (BWFF). The four women, Adanech Admassu, Hiwot Admasu Getaneh, Hermon Halley and Yamrot Nigussie, and one man Daniel Negatu, were selected from a significant group of applicants from Ethiopia’s budding film community through a targeted search concentrated on rising as well as mid-career filmmakers wanting to advance their profession and create international partnerships. Ethiopia is a country of many facets with over 80 different ethnic groups, identities and cultures, with large distances to cover that result in very poor interaction remote areas. The objective is to host filmmakers to introduce them to the larger world of their colleagues.

Since 2010, the Monaco based organization IEFTA and the EFI, together have been providing an opportunity for young Ethiopian filmmakers to study and learn their craft in Addis Ababa. The filmmakers come to Cannes and are mentored as they meet a range of influential distributors, sales agents, producers, directors and international film commissioners at the international festival. They are also given one-on-one sessions with film institutions, consultants, established producing & co-producing entities, and international distribution companies.

The concerted project “From Addis to Cannes”, aims to create a bridge for Ethiopian filmmakers to potential funders and distributors while giving them the tools to have a sustainable career in the film business. From Addis to Cannes will help the IEFTA, EFI and newly joined BWFF, promote the global film conversation with the emerging film community of Ethiopia, a country with a rich heritage and culture. For the audiences of the world at this time of increased globalization, awareness of Ethiopia’s culture through film adds to the richness of the global film expression.

Ragnhild Ek, 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 the beautiful Ethiopian landscapes and culture, and show the rest of the world what an attractive location Ethiopia can be for international filmmakers.”

A busy agenda during their visit

The selected filmmakers will participate in a full range of activities over the 6-day visit:

  • Screening of the filmmakers films in Monte Carlo for sponsors, supporters and the public who participate free of charge.
  • Full day workshop in Monte Carlo preparing the filmmakers for pitching, distribution and financing meetings while in Cannes. Producer/Consultant Moira Griffin is in charge of overseeing the workshop in Monte Carlo and leading the filmmakers on their journey through the world of Cannes.
  • A Gala Dinner party at Villa Nocturne in Monte Carlo with a bevy of international film industry, media, sponsors and supporters, with proceeds benefitting the IEFTA/EFI/BWFF educational program.
  • Full day of meetings in Cannes with distributors, acquisition executives, film commissioners, film festival directors and programmers, public relations and marketing executives and international journalists among others.
  • Invited as guests at the Second Annual Heart Fund Gala, a black-tie gala at the Carlton Hotel sponsored in part by the Better World Film Festival, and its President Manuel Collas de la Roche. The Heart Fund, founded by Dr. David Luu, fights against cardio-vascular diseases in developing countries. It treats children suffering from heart malformations, in their own countries. Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Tom Bernard serves as a Co-Chairman of the Gala Event.

“This is the third 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. “As more female filmmakers strive to be recognized, Ethiopia again demonstrates to the film world its growing talent base. That 4 of the 5 finalist are women demonstrates a strong film community supporting both genders, something I find our partners Better World Film Festival and the Ethiopian Film Initiative support but perhaps Europe and the US are still striving to achieve”.

“We’re very proud of our 2014 Ethiopian film finalists,” states Moira Griffin, Producer/Consultant and an early Board Member and Advisor to IEFTA and EFI. “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.”

Ragnhild Ek, a founding member of EFI in Ethiopia and member of the Advisory Board of IEFTA, comments: “Ethiopian filmmakers still face an uphill battle against budgetary constraints, lack of locally based training and screening opportunities, as well as an understanding of film production. These factors limit the number of films produced in the country. 

“However, the popularity of Ethiopian productions is growing as most cinemas are beginning to concentrate on domestic productions. Ethiopians love to see their own stories told by their people.”

Meet the finalists

The five short films were made with minimal equipment but both heart and soul both the filmmakers and the subjects revealed. The means are scarse but the substance is so compelling, because they closer to their reality.

Adanech AdmassuAdanech Admassu, one of Ethiopia’s most experienced female documentary film directors, has worked in some of the most remote areas of the country. She specializes in making films that give voice to the marginalized in the country. Adanech’s own story reads much like her films: born to a poor family and growing up in the streets of Mercato, she left school at 16 and was destined to be a kolo (an Ethiopian form of popcorn) seller, when she was recruited to take part in GEM TV, one of the country’s first community film schools.  She will be pitching a story on female genital mutilation set in Kenya, about at the extraordinary life of the Maasai woman Hellen Nkuraiya, exploring together how attitudes are changing within the Maasai culture. 

Hermon HailayHermon Hailay, one of Ethiopia’s leading female film writer/directors, with several critically and commercially successful films to her name, is currently in production of her third feature film. It tells the story of a young Addis Ababa taxi driver who gets caught up in the dark side of love, causing his taxi to be stolen. He finds himself stuck in a relationship with a prostitute, making him confront his past and discover what is the ultimate price of love.

Hiwot Admasu GetanehHiwot Admasu Getaneh, who learned the art of storytelling from her grandmother’s traditional stories, often takes an experimental approach to her filmmaking. She prefers directing her own scripts and will be pitching a story about a thirteen-year old girl, Selam, discovering her sexuality against the backdrop of a very conservative society.

Yamarot NIgussie

Yamrot Nigussie, whose work stretches from directing documentary and television dramas to acting, is presenting a docu-drama story about the many challenges facing a 22-year-old Ethiopian house-maid returning from a harsh working environment in Saudi Arabia, and how she confronts them.

Daniel D. NegatuDaniel D Negatu is a young experimental award-winning filmmaker with a strong humanitarian engagement. He will be pitching a story about a young Ethiopian man who is forced to come back to his home country after so long. He steps out in the streets of Addis Ababa for the first time in decades with only a backpack and a few hundred dollars in his pocket. He does not have the strength to call his parents nor the will to face his past.

Everybody was at the Gala including Tibetan monks bringing a message of peace

Tibetan monks who came to the Cannes Film Festival to promote the movie KALACHAKRA (The Enlightenment) with the Dalai Lama himself as one of the main protagonists, were special guests of Marco Orsini at the Gala at his Villa Nocturne bringing their message of peace. Directed by Natalie Fuchs, it’s the story of four people from different cultures and backgrounds (a Westerner, a tibetan couple, and a young Bhutan monk) who become friends in Dharamsala (northern India) and share the same thirst to be free from suffering to attain true knowledge. Accompanied by today’s great tibetan Buddhist masters (His Holiness the Dalaï Lama, the Oracle Nechung, Jhado Rinpoché and Thamthog Rinpoché) the four friends introduce us to the rites of this unusual indian city and transport us, through their discussions and imaginations, into this age-old secret teaching that is the Kalachakra initiation.

IEFTA, EFI and BWFF united we stand, divided we fall

The International Emerging Film Talent Association identifies and supports film-related creativity in developing countries around the world. Our mission is to discover and promote emerging talent, to encourage dialogue between filmmakers, to promote cultural diversity and international understanding, and to engage the art of cinema. A Monaco-based, non-profit organization, the IEFTA organizes, finances and promotes festivals, exhibition, education and development. Under the umbrella of the IEFTA, the Global Film Expression (GFE) initiative supports emerging filmmakers in developing nations. In 2008, the IEFTA launched the GFE initiative in the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. After selecting Ethiopia at its 2007 International Emerging Film Talent Festival in Monaco, the IEFTA hosted an international conference in Addis Ababa in partnership with the University of Addis Ababa, the Government of Ethiopia, the embassies of the United States and India and UNESCO. This lead to the establishment of the EFI and today, local students are showcasing their talents in international workshops and festivals. www.iefta.org

The Ethiopian Film Initiative is an NGO representing international and national film producers who are seeking to raise the professionalism of the film and television industries in Ethiopia. It seeks to discover, nurture and promote the very best filmmaking talent in Ethiopia. The EFI provides support to Ethiopian filmmakers and the development of the Ethiopian film industry, focusing on training of filmmakers and film educators, capacity building, advice on film production, film distribution and online information sharing. EFI also runs commissioning workshops to enable agencies to better understand the filmmaking process, highlighting production and budgeting processes and how to encourage the best artistry and professional outcomes from filmmakers. The EFI’s wide range of trainers are drawn from film schools, international film professionals and other media organizations, as well as from the ranks of Ethiopia’s best filmmakers. One of the EFI’s main priorities is to help filmmakers improve their skills in scriptwriting and production as well as promote their films internationally. Some of the EFI’s workshops have led to the production of a number of short documentaries which have been distributed online and shown to influential audiences in Addis Ababa, Nairobi (Kenya) and Monaco, spotlighting the need for international exposure for Ethiopian films and filmmakers. www.ethiopianfilminitiative.org

Better World Film Festival is a program of the Films For Peace Foundation, which is committed to the development of a dialogue and exchanges between academics, scientists and professional humanitarians on the one hand and the general public on the other, to promote peace throughout the world, a healthy environmental approach and understanding among cultures. The Foundation wishes to focus primarily on filmmakers, while still supporting all other forms of artistic expression that carry a message of peace. To do this, the Films For Peace Foundation supports game changers by producing documentaries and feature films destined for the general public. The Foundation also finances specific projects initiated by NGOs that follow these very principles. Their ambition is that each ray of peace, however modest, be capable of casting its light on the world. At the Gala they announced that the Better World Film Festival will take place in Monaco from October 29th through November 1st this year, and count on everybody’s participation! http://filmsforpeacefoundation.org/

Photo credit: KaidiPhotography

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