Cinema Ethiopia

 Haile Gerima (born Gondar, Ethiopia, March 4, 1946) is an Ethiopian film director, screenwriter, writer, producer, and philosopher who resides in Washington, DC. He is one of a handful of African filmmakers to earn international fame. He has been a professor of film at Howard University in Washington, DC, since 1975. His best-known film is the acclaimed Sankofa (1993).

1 Early years
2 Film career
2.1 Early films
2.2 Ashes and Embers and the 1980s
2.3 Sankofa and the 1990s
2.4 Teza
3 Independent distribution and Mypheduh Films Inc.
4 Sankofa Bookstore
5 Filmography
6 Further reading
7 Awards, nominations and distinctions
8 References
9 External links

[edit] Early yearsHaile was born and raised in Gondar, Ethiopia. His father, a dramatist and playwright who traveled across the Ethiopian countryside staging local plays, was an important early influence.

He immigrated to the United States in 1968. He pursued his interest by enrolling in acting classes at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. "When I was growing up," he told the Los Angeles Times, "I wanted to work in theater—it never occurred to me I could be a filmmaker because I was raised on Hollywood movies that pacified me to be subservient. Film making isn't encouraged or supported by the Ethiopian government." He felt limited by theater and was resigned, notes Francoise Pfaff, to "subservient roles in Western plays."

In 1970 he had discovered the power of cinema, and moved migrated to California to attend the University of California, where he earned Bachelor's and Master's of Fine Arts degrees in film. At UCLA he joined the Los Angeles School of Black filmmakers, along with Charles Burnett ("Killer of Sheep"), Jamaa Fanaka ("Penitentiary"), Ben Caldwell ("I and I"), Larry Clark and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust).

Other film makers whom Haile creditted as influencing him include Vittorio de Sica, Fernando Solanas, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and Med Hondo.

[edit] Film career[edit] Early filmsBy the time Gerima graduated in 1976, he had completed four films[1]: Hour Glass (1972); Child of Resistance (1972); Bush Mama (1976); and Mirt Sost Shi Amit (also known as Harvest: 3,000 Years; 1976)

Gerima's 1976 "Bush Mama", produced during the period of film history known as the Blaxploitation era, is in stark with that era as its depiction of the travails of Black life and culture are far removed from that of the drug deals and revenge killings of Superfly (1972) and Foxy Brown (1976). The film is the story of Dorothy and her husband T.C., a discharged Vietnam veteran who thought he would return home to a hero's welcome. Instead, he is falsely arrested and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Theirs is a world of welfare, perennial unemployment, and despair. To some, the film may appear bleak and nihilistic with its stark black-and-white photography, but its message is moving and distinct. Issues of institutionalized racism, police brutality, and poverty remain sadly pertinent and the film, nearly 35 years old, retains its potency.

For the production of Mirt Sost Shi Amit (Harvest: 3,000 Years)[2] Gerima returned to his native Ethiopia to produce the tale of a poor peasant family that ekes out an existence within a brutal, exploitative, and feudal system of labor.

1978's Wilmington 10—USA 10,000 exposed the impact of racism and the shortcomings of the criminal justice system by examining the infamous history of the nine Black men and one white woman who became known as the Wilmington 10.

[edit] Ashes and Embers and the 1980sIn 1982, he again focused his camera upon the travails of Black urban life in the two-hour Ashes and Embers, the story of a moody and disillusioned Black veteran of the Vietnam War.[3]

After Winter: Sterling Brown (1985) is a documentary about the famous Black poet Sterling Brown.

[edit] Sankofa and the 1990sGerima is perhaps best known as the writer, producer, and director of the acclaimed 1993 film Sankofa. This historically inspired dramatic tale of African resistance to slavery won international acclaim: awarded first prize at the African Film Festival in Milan, Italy; Best Cinematography at Africa's premier Festival of Pan African Countries known as FESPACO; and nominated for the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival,[4] where it competed with other Hollywood films. In addition, the film captured the imagination of huge audiences across the United States, many of whom waited in long lines and filled theaters for weeks on end. In so doing, the film defied the notion that signing with mainstream distributors was the only option for filmmakers to have the public see their films. Guided by an independent philosophy, Gerima practiced an innovative strategy in distribution whose success remains unprecedented in African American film history.

"Spirit of the dead, rise up and claim your story!" as its haunting opening, it presents with brutal realism, the horrors of African slavery. The story is revealed through the eyes of Mona, a modern-day woman who is possessed by spirits and transported back in time as Shola, a house slave on the Lafayette plantation in Louisiana. The savagery and violence of the evil institution are clearly disturbing and go far beyond the safe and conventional images of slavery presented by Hollywood. In Sankofa, we hear the chilling sound of human flesh as it is seared with a hot branding iron and see the barren faces of the human cargo; women are stripped of all dignity and subject to the continual sexual exploitation of their owners; human necks are enclosed in iron shackles; and rape is used as a tool of terror and domination. Some panned Gerima for his stylistic flourishes but the response by the Black community was positive and enthusiastic. The film was well-received and played to full houses for many weeks in major cities.

Imperfect Journey (1994), is a BBC-commissioned film that explores the political and psychic recovery of the Ethiopian people after the atrocities and political repression or red terror of the military junta of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The filmmaker questions the direction of the succeeding government and the will of the people in creating institutions guaranteeing their liberation.

1999's Adwa: An African Victory is a compelling documentary drama of the history of the 1896 battle, which concluded the war in which the Ethiopian people united to defeat the Italian army. The film is skillfully interlaced with paintings, sound, music, rare historical photographs, and interviews of elders who recall the details of the story of the battle. It concludes with a dramatic recreation of the final battle.

[edit] TezaGerima's most recent film is Teza (2008). Set in Ethiopia and Germany, the film chronicles the return of an Ethiopian intellectual to his country of birth during the repressive Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and the recognition of his own displacement and powerlessness at the dissolution of his people's humanity and social values. After several years spent studying medicine in Germany, Anberber returns to Ethiopia only to find the country of his youth replaced by turmoil. His dream of using his craft to improve the health of Ethiopians is squashed by a military junta that uses scientists for their own political ends. Seeking the comfort of his countryside home, Anberber finds no refuge from violence. The solace that the memories of his youth provide is quickly replaced by the competing forces of military and rebelling factions. Anberber needs to decide whether he wants to bear the strain or piece together a life from the fragments that lie around him.

[edit] Independent distribution and Mypheduh Films Inc.Gerima distributes and promotes his films himself through Mypheduh Films Inc., a distribution company for low-budget, independent films that he and his wife of 12 years, Sirikiana Aina (who is also a filmmaker), established in 1984.

"I'm a third-world, independent filmmaker," declared Haile Gerima in a 1983 interview.

Though now well-established and respected as a filmmaker, Gerima, like many independent filmmakers, has failed to capture a mainstream audience, a reality he finds bittersweet. "I was never enamored of the film industry," he reveals in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Every Hollywood story is Eurocentric and if it isn't, then it will simply be disregarded. So I never wanted to be part of an industry that fails to represent the world as it really exists."

In spite of numerous limitations and against all odds, Gerima has succeeded in a tough industry for nearly 30 years and has emerged as one of the more potent outsider voices in the history of filmmaking.

[edit] Sankofa BookstoreHis film center, located in the heart of the African American community at 2714 Georgia Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC, represents one of the real manifestations of the dream he has for independent African American cinema. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to purchase his work outside of the city.

[edit] Filmography1972 - Hour Glass Hour Glass
1972 - Child of Resistance
1976 - Bush Mama
1976 - Mirt Sost Shi Amit (also known as Harvest: 3,000 Years)
1978 - Wilmington 10 -- U.S.A. 10,000
1982 - Ashes and Embers
1985 - After Winter: Sterling Brown
1993 - Sankofa
1994 - Imperfect Journey
1999 - Adwa - An African Victory
2009 - Teza
[edit] Further readingCham, Mbye Baboucar (1984). "Art and Ideology in the Work of Sembene Ousmane and Haile Gerima." Présence Africaine: Revue Culturelle du Monde Noir/Cultural Review of the Negro World, vol. 129, no. 1, pp. 79–91.
Alexander, George, and Janet Hill, eds. (2003). Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk About the Magic of Cinema. New York: Harlem Moon.
[edit] Awards, nominations and distinctionsMain article: List of awards won by Haile Gerima
Over the course of his career, Gerima has received a considerable number of awards and distinctions in film festivals, saluting his work as a director, and screenwriter.

1976 - Grand prize / Silver Leopard for Harvest: 3,000 Years-Locarno
1982 - Grand Prix Award for Ashes and Embers-Lisbon International Film Festival
1983 - FIPRESCI Film Critics Award for Ashes and Embers-Berlin International Film Festival
Outstanding Production Ashes and Embers-London Film Festival
1984 - Tribute Festival De la Rochelle, France
1987 - Long Metrage De Fiction-Prix de la Ville de Alger for Ashes and Embers
1993 - Best Cinematography Award for Sankofa,FESPACO,Burkina Faso
2003 - Lifetime Achievement Award, 4th Annual Independence Film Festival, Washington D.C.
2006 - Festival De Cannes Selection Official Cannes Classic -Harvest: 3,000 Years
2008 - Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize and Best Screen Play Award - Teza
2009 - Jury Award at the 18th International Film Festival Innsbruck/Austria - Teza
2009 - Golden Stallion of Yennenga at the Fespaco African Film Festival - Teza
2009 - Dioraphte Award Hubert Bals film in highest audience regard at the Rotterdam Film Festival
2009 - Golden Tanit/Best Film Award for its "modesty and genius," Best Music(Jorga Mesfin Vijay Ayers), Best Cinematography(Mario Massini), Best Screenplay(Haile Gerima), Best Supporting Actor Abeye Tedla at the Carthage/Tunisia Film Festival for Teza (film)
2009 - Golden Unicorn and Best Feature Film at the Amiens/France International Film Festival France for Teza
2009 -The Human Value's Award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece for Teza
2009 - Best Composer (Jorga Mesfin) at the Dubai International Film Festival for Teza
2009 - Official Selection at the Toronto Film Festival for Teza
[edit] References1.^ Kristine McKenna, Los Angeles Times, "Sankofa: a Saga of Slavery Reaches the Big Screen - Movies: Haile Gerima hit a brick wall when trying to finance his story of a Black woman, so he did it himself", May 29, 1995.
2.^ Asrat, H.,, "H. Asrat’s review of Harvest:3,000 Years on Abesha.Com", March 4, 2009
3.^ Maslin, Janet, New York Times, "Movie Review: Ashes and Embers", November 17, 1982.
4.^ "Berlinale: 1993 Programme". Retrieved 2011-05-30.
[edit] External linksSankofa Official Site
Biography at
Haile Gerima at the Internet Movie Database
Sankofa at the Internet Movie Database
Adwa at the Internet Movie Database
An interview with Haile Gerima
Teza Official Site
Name Gerima, Haile
Alternative names 
Short description Ethiopian director, film professor, philosopher, and writer
Date of birth March 4, 1946
Place of birth Gondar, Ethiopia
Date of death 
Place of death 
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Thanks! Your ratings have been saved.Did you know that you can edit this page?Edit this pageMaybe later Categories: 1946 birthsLiving peoplePeople from GondarAmerican people of Ethiopian descentHoward University facultyDePaul University alumniEthiopian emigrants to the United StatesEthiopian film directorsEthiopian film producersEthiopian screenwritersFilm theoristsL.A. Rebellion School of Black FilmmakersUCLA Film School alumniHidden categories: All articles with a promotional toneArticles with hCardsPersonal tools
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