Film festival for film buffs
You are sitting in a dark room with lots of people, looking at a bright screen, being entertained. Sounds like a movie going experience? Sure, but a film festival is a different thing all together, different from the universe of cinema. You get to see films that you otherwise would not see at the cinemas, get exclusive access to discover new filmmaking, or personally meet the filmmakers. This year’s Addis International Film Festival was just that.
The Addis International Film Festival, free and open to the public, took place at four venues, Vamdas Entertainment, Hager Fikir Theatre, Italian Cultural Institute, and the National Archives and Library Agency (Wemezekir). Shining a spotlight on socially significant stories, it was a celebration of documentary storytelling and filmmakers who bring their stories to the public.
This annual, week-long event that lasted from May 1-6, 2018 showcased more than 63 documentaries and 22 short-films. It created a platform for emerging and established filmmakers from around the world who tell human interest stories. It covered a range of socially relevant films about immigration, displacement, poverty and social justice as its theme.
The opening day film, screened around 5pm, was ‘Ethiopiques- Revolt of The Soul’. The film conveys the story of the groovy and beat-driven Soul-Jazz music that mesmerized Ethiopia since the Seventies. Even though it was forbidden by the government at the time, the music made it to the listeners’ ears and hypnotized them. This was until the coup threw the country into civil war and musicians were forced into exile. This could have been the end of Ethiopian music history, but as fate would have it, records fell into the hands of a French music enthusiast, who gave the genre a bustling afterlife with the critically acclaimed 32-record album series “Ethiopiques”.
This highly anticipated film opened in Hager Fikir Theatre and Vadmas Entertainment, and at Vadmas, when the attendance exceeded the cinema hall’s capacity, many were willing to sit on the floor.
Viewers at the festival picked their cinematic journeys; closer to home from Addis to faraway places like Iran, Burkina Faso, the US, France or India. They got to see brave, endearing and flawed characters. They partook in hands-on workshops and participated in multiple question and answer sessions with filmmakers.
The question and answer sessions that followed some of the films like ‘ The Bastard’, ‘From Africa With Love- GreekEthiopics’, and ‘Kerro 40’ were lively and interactive, as the audience wanted to talk about them. Filmmakers introduced their work and discussed the filmmaking process.
‘The Bastard’, another anticipated film, tells a story of Daniel Hoek, an Ethiopian who has been convicted for murder. He claims that if his Dutch father had not abounded him, he would have never turned to crime. On the other hand his father, Joop Hoek, is equally certain that he would have been a different person had he not been deserted by his own, Dutch- Indonesian, father. ‘The Bastard’ tells two separate stories of an adult child and his elderly father that are inseparably intertwined. They add up to a very moving narrative about destiny, racism, and about how the lack of a father influenced these lives.
With several sentimental scenes, this story caused some of the audience to get emotional. Some were visibly infuriated by the various racist remarks made by Joop Hoek, and others were secretly sobbing because the story ended with the reuniting of father and son, however not a happy reunion.
Daniel Hoek was present at the screening. At the Question and Answer Session, this very opinionated individual discussed and debated his views with the audience. With his confrontational and controversial attitude towards race, nationality, and recognition he ended up offending several people from the audience.
The documentaries exhibited complement traditional journalism and explore social-related issues with great depth. “Almost all the films I saw focused on known current world issues. They are well documented; and unlike the stories you find on the news, they make you see the stories from the perspective of the people who actually lived the experience; and I think that’s important. The whole experience was kind of enlightening,” Izat Amanuel, a participating audience, said.
According to Selam Teshome, program coordinator, most of the films emphasized on factual storytelling that displayed newsworthy subject matters from all around the world. Having those qualities, she said, was the criteria to participate in the festival. “We accepted submissions until March 15. Our panel of six judges selected 63 films from the 122 submitted. Of the selected movies, five were Ethiopia-related; but only one (A Season for Dancing) was entirely made by an Ethiopian, residing in Addis.”
‘A Season for Dancing’ directed by Moges Tafesse, generated a fascinated crowd at the Hager Fikir Theatre. It tells the story of a 16-year-old Meseret, reconnected to his Ethiopian culture and homeland via the support of his adoptive father.
Throughout the week, people flooded the venues to follow certain anticipated films, some of them were ‘The Battle of Algiers, a Film Within History’ from France, Switzerland, and Algeria , ‘Before Summer Ends’ from Iran, ‘Ta’aug’ from Russia , ‘All governments Lie’ from Canada, ‘As We’re Told’ form Sweden and ‘Edith+Eddie’ from the US,
Addis International Film Festival wrapped up its twelfth edition with a brief Closing Awards Ceremony at the Italian Cultural Institute. This year’s short-film award winner was selected by a vote. The audience left no space for doubts; the film that won was ‘Pottery’ by Dagnachew Woldegiorgis. On a scale of five, most people voted fours and fives.
This five minute film reveals the superior craftsmanship and efforts required to create the ‘Jebena’. Dagnachew, aged 32, showed the process Genet Shewaye, a potter, went through as she transformed mud into a beautiful work of art. His inspiration he said is driven from the concept “Pottery is a creation, and the Potter, its deity.” He won a paid travel expense to an international film festival, although he didn’t decide on the location, he said he is very happy he won.
The award was followed by a music show, networking opportunity and refreshments. It linked like-minded people through their love of independent film and the art of telling factual stories.