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| 119 Women’s Participation in Ethiopian Cinema Eyerusaleam Kassahun H istory is often presented as being linear and one-sided, often overlooking key issues related to a certain historical phenomenon. Research into and around cinematic history has developed dynamically over the century, but studies that have been conducted on the participation and contribution of womenarelimited.OnEthiopiancinema,veryfewresearcheshavebeenconducted. Scholarly studies from outside of the country include research by Alessandro Jedlowski (2015), Ruth Ben-Ghiat (2003), and Michael W. Thomas (2015), and Ethiopian contributions include work by Hailu Kebede (1986), Fantahun Engida (1985),andFikaduLimenih(2013).Butnoneof thesesolelyfocusesonthesignifijicant contributions of female fijilmmakers and fijilm professionals, an area this chapter seeks to bring to the fore. It is a commonly held belief among cultural commentators in Ethiopia that men dominate the Ethiopian fijilm industry, but in most cases, starting from the fijirst fijilm production in the country and continuing to the present day, women have been very much active and continue to contribute in key areas to the dynamic and fast-growing nature of fijilm productions in Ethiopia. The most signifijicant achievements made by female fijilmmakers are in the areas of directing, editing, and distribution. Two of the early narrative movies, Behiywet Zuriya/Around Life 120 | Eyerusaleam Kassahun (Birhanu Shibiru, 1989) and Aster (Solomon Bekele Weya, 1991/1992), and many documentaries were edited by the fijirst female fijilm editor in the country, Tamir Abera. And, in 2002, when digital fijilms began being screened in cinemas, again a female director, Helen Tadesse, was a pioneer with the screening of her fijilm, Yeberedow Zemen/The Ice Age in cinema halls. Nowadays, many fijilms are being produced in Ethiopia, but for almost all local fijilms,exceptaselectfew,reachingtheinternationalaudienceisbeyondtheirremit. Even though achieving international acclaim is difffijicult and not sought after by all, the female fijilmmaker Hermon Hailay and her fijilm Yefijiker Wagaw/The Price of Love (2015) have been the most recent to tour international fijilm festivals. In fact to date, this fijilm has participated in thirty fijilm festivals and won thirteen awards (Hermon Hailay, interview, Addis Ababa, May 23, 2016). In Ethiopian fijilm history, a little known fact is that the fijirst person to introduce the broadcasting of Amharic movies on television was the female producer Feven Tadesse. But because of the lack of adequate attention to the participation of female fijilmmakers, there is little acknowledgementafffordedtothosefemaleleaderswhodidalottodevelopcinema in Ethiopia. A major concern of this chapter, then, is to disclose the value and capacity of women in changing the Ethiopian fijilm industry in every professional aspect of fijilmmaking in the country. This chapter presents the position of women fijilmmakers by analyzing their role and by interpreting their fijilms. All the data has been collected through different mechanisms, utilizing written archives such as magazines and newspapers, observing closely the local fijilm movement, and interviewing fijilmmakers. The chapter is divided into four sections: the fijirst section traces the role of theater in facilitatingfemalefijilmmakersforworkincinema;thesecondandthethirdsections focus on the central themes of Ethiopian female fijilmmakers and the images of female characters in their fijilms; the fourth section reveals the participation of entrepreneurial women in the fijilm business. The chapter ultimately seeks to offfer greater exposure to the role and effforts of women fijilmmakers in the development of fijilm production in Ethiopia. The Role of Theater in Facilitating Female Filmmakers Many fijilmmakers whose fijilms have achieved popular acclaim in Ethiopia come from theater or radio backgrounds. In the Ethiopian art movement, working in Women’s Participation in Ethiopian Cinema | 121 television, fijilm, theater, radio, writing, directing, producing, and acting are not so distinct professionally with many people crossing freely into various and multiple artistic ventures. An individual may do all of these things or may use the success of one sector to propel their career in their chosen fijield. From all other artistic fijields in Ethiopia, theater often plays a pivotal role as a hotbed of emerging talent and as a facilitator into the fijilm industry in Ethiopia. If we look closely, women are also a key part of the particular history of this artistic movement. The fijirst Amharic movie, Hirut, abatwa manew?/Hirut, Who Is Her Father? (1964), written by Ilala Ibsa and directed by Lambros Jokaris, cast some actors and actresses with plenty of stage experiences in major...


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