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| vii Introduction Alessandro Jedlowski, Michael W. Thomas, and Aboneh Ashagrie T his collection of essays constitutes the fijirst systematic attempt at describing and analyzing the history and current developments of fijilm production and circulation in Ethiopia. As such, it is a necessary and overdue attempt at fijilling a signifijicant gap in the scholarship about cinema in Africa. It is indeed striking to note that despite the dynamism of the Ethiopian fijilm sector during the twentieth century, in most if not all the key reference books on African cinema published in English over the past three decades Ethiopia is almost absent (Barlet 2000; Diawara 1992, 2010; Ukadike 1994; Harrow 2007, 2013; Tcheuyap 2011). The exception that confijirms the rule is the abundant number of essays that analyze the work of the Ethiopian born director Haile Gerima (Cham 1982; Pfafff 2004; G. Thomas 2013; M.W. Thomas 2014), whose experience as a fijilmmaker, however, took offf while he was a student in the United States and remains until today profoundly connected to the North American independent fijilm production environment (but see Tekletsadik Belachew’s essay in this book for an analysis of the traces of specifijically Amharic and Orthodox Christian elements in his work). Similarly, some scholarly attention has been devoted to the work of other notable Ethiopian fijilmmakers who produced the core of their work in the Unites States, viii | Introduction such as Yemane Demissie (Cham 1998; Leclercq 2002) and Salem Mekuria (Petty 1999; Woubshet 2010). While the importance and quality of these authors’ work is indisputable, it is equally true that this analysis alone cannot make us understand the complexity, historical depth, and aesthetic and narrative specifijicities of the cinema production that has emerged in the region throughout the past century. As a number of recent publications have highlighted (Ashagrie 2013; Barlet 2015;Tadesse 2016; Jedlowski 2015; M.W. Thomas 2015), over the past two decades Ethiopia has experienced a boom in video fijilm production that has attracted much international interest. In order to fully understand the long-term dynamics that influenced it and rightly contextualize its specifijicities, however, a larger, overarching perspective is needed. If, then, the core of the present book analyzes the past fijifteen years of digital fijilm production, a substantial efffort is put into highlighting, through a few introductive chapters, key moments of Ethiopian fijilm history, from the early fijilm screenings under the rule of Emperor Menelik II to the impact of Fascist policies and representations during the Italian occupation, from the fijirst Ethiopian celluloid productions at the crepuscule of Haile Selassie’s government to the articulated fijilm policies enforced under the authoritarian administration of the Derg regime—moments that have received little scholarly attention but whose analysis can help us gain a much better understanding of fijilm production and circulation in Ethiopia. Furthermore, as we will better discuss below, while putting together this book we understood that a focus limited to the production happening in what constitutes today’s Ethiopia would limit our understanding of what is taking place in a region, the Horn of Africa, in which frontiers have been porous and movable forcenturies,andwhereculturalproductionscirculatewellbeyondtheboundaries of today’s nation-states. If then, the key focus of the book is the analysis of fijilms produced in Ethiopia and by Ethiopian nationals in the diaspora, the chapters by Aurora Massa and Osvaldo Costantini and by Daniele Comberiati discuss also Eritrean and Somali fijilms. These productions circulate also in Ethiopia, and the analysis of the history of cinema in these two countries, while signifijicantly diffferent from the Ethiopian one, can provide a number of important insights to better understand the current developments taking place in the whole region, including Ethiopia. Introduction | ix The Missing Link with the African Cinema Scholarship Thehistoryof Ethiopiaandof theHornof Africamoregenerallypresentsanumber of specifijicities that had fundamental impacts in shaping fijilmmaking practices in the region. These specifijicities are explored in detail in Michael W. Thomas’s fijirst chapter of this collection and there is no point in rehearsing them here. However, it is important to underline that the peculiar historical itinerary of Ethiopia as a country had an important role in making Ethiopian cinema distinctly diffferent from other cinematic traditions that emerged around the continent, somehow also contributing to its marginalization. Three aspects come to mind as the most relevant: the linguistic insularity of Ethiopian cultural production; the...


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