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| 161 Ethiopian Cinema and the Politics of Migration, at Home and Abroad Alessandro Jedlowski U ntil less than ten years ago, it was hard to fijind traces of anything called “Ethiopian cinema” in newspapers and academic journals outside of Ethiopia . Little was known about the state of the fijilm industry in this country of the Horn beyond the work of a few renowned Ethiopian fijilmmakers and critics based in the United States such as Haile Gerima, Salem Mekuria, Yemane Demissie, andTeshome Gabriel. But since the early 2000s a new wave of digital fijilm production has emerged in Ethiopia, helping to revive a fijilmmaking tradition that produced important works, such as Michel Papatakis’sGumma/BloodMoney (1974) and Solomon Bekele Weya’s Aster (1992). Beyond this homegrown phenomenon, a new wave of diasporic Ethiopian fijilms has also seen the light. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s internationally acclaimed Difret (2014) andYared Zeleke’s Lamb (2015) are probably the best known among them, but other examples could be mentioned, such as the works of Rachel Samuel in the United States, Mikael Ayele in Sweden, and Dagmawi Yimer in Italy. These two emerging fijilm-production trends, in Ethiopia and within the Ethiopiandiasporaworldwide ,areprofoundlydiffferentintermsof boththeirproduction strategies and their aesthetic and narrative choices.The most relevant diffference is probably related to the target audience these diffferent production trends have in 162 | Alessandro Jedlowski mind:alocal,wider,andmorepopularaudienceforlocallyproduced,commercially oriented Ethiopian fijilms; a rather international, more politically and artistically sophisticated audience for the diasporic fijilms. This diffference can induce the researcher to opt for interpreting these emerging trends separately, as the result of a series of cultural, social, economic, and political factors too diffferent to be compared. And this is what most of the very little existing scholarship about Ethiopian cinema has done until today. In this chapter, on the contrary, I will argue that a closer comparative analysis can produce interesting results, especially when it comes to the study of the way fijilms from each of these trends discuss issues that are relevant for the understanding of contemporary Ethiopian politics and society. Youth emigration is undisputedly one of them (Fernandez 2010; Fransen and Kuschminder 2009; Hassan and Negash 2013), and the works of the two fijilm directorsthischapterfocuseson,thefijictionfijilmdirector,producer,andactorbased in Ethiopia Tewodros Teshome and the documentary fijilmmaker based in Italy Dagmawi Yimer, propose interesting as much as diverging ways to think about it. In the fijirst section, I will set the general background context for this analysis by providing some information about the phenomenon of outward migration from Ethiopia and about the representation of this issue in contemporary Ethiopian cinema. Then, in the second and third sections, I will focus on the analysis of Tewodros Teshome’s and Dagmawi Yimer’s lives and works, highlighting the interrelations existing between their biographic experiences and the content of their fijilms. Their diffferent takes on migration help us understand the position that this issue occupies in present-day Ethiopian politics and highlight the role that cinema plays today in the discussion of this phenomenon, both in Ethiopia and throughout the diaspora. The Phenomenon of Outward Migration in Ethiopia: Reality and Fiction Overthepastfewdecades,migrationfluxesfromEthiopiatowardothernon-African countries have developed as a consequence of diffferent factors, including “political instability,declineorstagnationintheagriculturalsector,andthe1980sgovernment resettlement program” (Andersson 2014, 4). These factors have transformed over time and shifted from mainly political “to more economic motives” (Fransen and Kuschminder 2009, 10; see also Bariagaber 1997). Nevertheless, recent reports Ethiopian Cinema and the Politics of Migration | 163 underline how, particularly since the postelectoral violence that occurred after the 2005 elections (Abbink 2006), political persecution, lack of freedom of expression, and ethnic discrimination have come to represent some of the most relevant factors driving people away from Ethiopia (Hassan and Negash 2013; IRIN News 2011). Within this context, for a long time the most popular destinations were the United States, Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Israel (particularly for the Ethiopian Jewishcommunity,knownasthe“BetaIsrael”),butoverthepastfewyearspreferred destinations have progressively shifted to Middle Eastern and Gulf countries such as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (Fernandez 2010; Kebede 2002). With the increase in the number of people willing to migrate from Ethiopia and the proportional decrease in the chances to achieve such a project legally, the itineraries of these journeys have fallen under the control of criminal networks involved in human trafffijicking and smuggling, a phenomenon that has reached an unprecedented scale in Ethiopia and...


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