The history of Ethiopia in the second post-war period – through the monarchical regime of Hailè Selassiè (Hāyla Selāssē) until 1974, the military dictatorship of Marxist-Leninist inspiration of Mangestù Haylamāryām from 1977 to 1991, and finally the precarious multi-party democracy in the last decade – was characterized by a permanent tension, often resulting in open confrontation, between the different ethnic-linguistic groups. But the most lacerating conflict was the one which, after thirty years of struggle, led to the secession of Eritrea, which proclaimed itself independent, in 1993. In this context, Ethiopian cinema has followed the fate of those of other African countries(v.) oriental: after some tests dating back to the sixties, it survived only abroad, thanks to those directors who live and work in Europe or in the United States. For Ethiopia 2010, please check programingplease.com.
The most prestigious figure in African-American cinema of the diaspora is the Ethiopian Hailè (owner Mypheduh) Gerima, transplanted to the United States since 1967. Gerima has been the interpreter of a militant and denouncing cinema, which has confronted history, using always experimental and innovative forms of investigation. Among his most representative feature films: Bush Mama (1976), set in the United States during the harshly repressed political protests of the Black Power, tells the difficulties of a mother who tries to raise her daughter while preserving her from the horrors and abuses of the miserable reality in which they are forced to live; Mirt Sost shi amit (1976; The 3000 year harvest), crude representation of the hard life of Ethiopian peasants. Among the following works are to be remembered: Sankofa (1993), whose title comes from a proverb of the Akan ethnic group (Ghana), which expresses the need to look to the past in order to understand the future; and Adwa (1999; Adua), reconstruction of the battle through oral sources, which had a television circulation in Italy. Both films are a sort of journey into the memory of the Ethiopian people, in the first case not to forget the tragedy of the African slaves segregated in Ghana before being deported to the Americas, in the second case to remember the fight waged by the Ethiopians against the colonial army Italian directors who linked their name to the beginnings of documentary cinema include Afework Manna and Solomon Bekele. The latter,
Another director who lives and works in the United States is Yemane Y. Demissiè, author of another of the rare Ethiopian feature films, Gir-Gir (1996, known as Tumult), always political but very confused from the point of view of the narrative and of language: describes the attempt to introduce democratic reforms by an Ethiopian nobleman who returned from the United States to his country.
The director Salem Mekuria, also based in the United States, author of Ye Wonz Maeibel (1995, known as Deluge), confronted the most recent story – the 1974 student revolt that led to the fall of Haile Selassie. Finally, a further example of the elaboration of one’s past and roots came from one of the works of the video artist Theo Eshetu, who lives and works in Italy, entitled Blood is not fresh water (1998).