Ethiopian Cinema is on the Rise

Billions of people around the world have been mesmerized by the cinematic magic cast from a part of Los Angeles, California known as “Hollywood,” the endearing label of the American motion picture industry. Howard Johnson (“H.J.”) Johnson, a successful land developer, coined the name in 1896, during his honeymoon with his wife.

Hollywood grew from a quaint southern Californian neighborhood into the domineering giant of the cinema world.  Now, numerous other countries have growing or developed film industries.

The film industry in India known as “Bollywood” has achieved global recognition. It should be noted, however, that the term technically refers to the film industry based in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), and does not encompass the entire film industry in India.

The success of Bollywood is undeniable. There is a sizable following of Bollywood movies and music in the U.S. and the Internet is saturated with websites relating to Bollywood.  Netflix even has a sub-genre section dedicated to Bollywood.

In addition, the French, Australian, Italian, Swedish, Mexican, Russian, and Japanese film industries are hugely successfully and enjoy worldwide recognition for film production.

While the film industries in Nigeria and South Africa are on the rise, other African film industries do not seem to get as much exposure.

The Ethiopian film industry is a good example.

Despite the substantial overall Ethiopian development witnessed by the world, the country’s film industry has not yet received widespread recognition outside of the Ethiopian Diaspora.

It is worth noting that Indian cinema is very popular in Ethiopia, so Ethiopian filmmakers have been influenced to some extent by Indian filmmakers and Bollywood. The Ethiopian film industry is making progress, and produces entertaining movies in Amharic, the official language of the country.

The Ethiopian Filmmakers Association (EFA), located in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, indicates that the film industry in Ethiopia is growing significantly.

The Chairman of EFA, Haimanot Alemu, stated:

“Ethiopian film continues to grow by leaps and bounds. There are so many films being produced by young Ethiopian filmmakers. So many, in fact, that we are losing count. One could say without exaggeration that well over 200 films have been produced over the last five years, with many more on the way. Ethiopian films are also contributing towards Ethiopia’s image enhancement, promoting its cultures by telling Ethiopian stories, and generating literally millions in tax revenues as well as in hall rentals and advertising. With proper support and encouraging policies, the film industry could one day become a multi-million dollar investment field.”

It is only a matter of time before Ethiopian cinema becomes more mainstream.

First, the Ethiopian Diaspora is very large, and is continuing to grow and have influence in the world. According to a report by the BBC, there are roughly 250,000 Ethiopians living in the District of Columbia, alone. And there are sizable populations of Ethiopians in other U.S. cities.

Second, Ethiopians are getting better at filmmaking, and the overall quality of Ethiopian cinema is likely to increase.  For example, an organization known as the Ethiopian Film Initiative offers Ethiopian training and is assisting with the development of the Ethiopian film industry.

Third, investment in Ethiopia is on the rise.  The film industry is likely to get an indirect boost from increased general investment activity.

Last, but not least, Addis Ababa is now widely viewed by the world as the diplomatic center of the African continent.

As Ethiopia exercises its political influence in that region of the world –and as trade and investment activity increases, the country and its people, businesses, and industries will be center stage.

Consequently, Ethiopian cinema may be positioned to share some of the spotlight. So, perhaps the wonderful world of Ethiopian cinema will become affectionately known as “Ababa-wood.”

In any event, it is worth noting that many Ethiopian stores throughout the DC Metropolitan Area sell Ethiopian movies, and some display posters of the movies.  My wife (who is of Ethiopian descent) and I snapped the photograph (above) of a poster for an apparently popular movie, entitled “La-Borena.” We have not seen the movie yet, but it seems interesting based on a review I read online.

Steven Rangel

Steven Rangel is a professional who currently resides in New York City with his wife.

Get More Posts