Haile Gerima: A real African voice in Films & Life (part 2)

Part Two
3. Haile's Contribution for Ethiopia Specifically
Being a typical patriot, Haile has done tremendous tasks for his country, Ethiopia. He has never been reluctant to feel deeply responsible for Ethiopia and the documentation as well as preservation of its history. In all what he does, he has placed a duty in his shoulder willingly as an enlightened man to help his nation. He has produced films that depict Ethiopian important difficulties during the Derge regime. Haile has done many patriotic activities and is doing more for his country. For instance he has tried to collect historical records of the country from the relevant people who can be considered direct sources of history. He accumulates the history and makes use of them in the films he produces. That was how his documentary Adwa: An African Victory was made. To make this documentary film, Haile has to dig into different sources so that better story is gathered. He has gathered different rarely seen poems, pictures, written records, and made important interviews as inputs for his film which are pin-pointy in showing the correct history unwashed through the fact of the history’s long agedness. Among other things, this proves his heroic adventures worthy celebrating and his love for his country; not to mention his deeply professionalized filmmaking style just to a more credit of his name. In an interview he had with Tewodros Tsegaye on EBS TV Program—Riyot—Haile told that he spends hundreds of hours to gather information on the history of the past Ethiopia so that he better understands the true story of Ethiopia. Apart from that, Haile is a huge lesson for Ethiopian filmmakers. Anyone who knows the Ethiopian film industry by now can tell many things easily. Among other things, it is evident that the nation's film industry acutely suffers from varieties and is filled by ignorance of practical problems common in the life of the citizens. Here it should be noted that the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood, has managed to attract and retain the local audiences from foreign films by making films that are truly of African nature. These are the one that explore and address the local social attitudes and nature of the country. Now Ethiopians, as I have said, lacks such habit of localizing the filmmaking industry well. Right at that point, Haile Gerima can be raised to evince our filmmakers need to adapt the trend of Nollywood in Ethiopia. He is doing his part to tell us that the themes of our films shall not be at least confined into the common storytelling that we are familiar with the copious Hollywood films. We have to do films that directly talk of our own history in our own ways of storytelling.

4. Haile’s Lessons and Contributions for Africa
Beyond being a voice for Africa, Haile can be considered a huge source of lesson for the continent and far wide wherever as far as there is a need to fight for truth of one’s identity, freedom, and questions of equality. He has made use of his profession and his entire life to a value that Africa shall prosper out of its filmmaking and also get rewards for what they did well. He is an activist who works on the equality of human beings and he seems to never cease his struggle on this regard. When he determined that he has not to be affected by the classical Hollywood film-making style, he was inviting a baffling challenge for his career and life. Though he could have joined the mainstream, he refused and opted to pursue the way he has found by his logic. Fighting the impossible has so far proved that he is a person of wonder and excellence who deserves a massive tribute for his contributions. Haile has a message for Africans. He has lived that message by making it his life’s motto and work principle of his profession. He reiterates that “African filmmakers should not allow ourselves be swept by the Hollywood cultures; rather we have to fight for our own equality; we need to rise up in our imaginations; and we also have to tell our own stories." He states that Hollywood is more than a film industry. It is a powerful cultural machine. It influences the rest of the world and it is one cause why we are lost in USA. By “we” he means the scholars who go to America to study and make films based Hollywood culture. He comments that, we can develop our own black cinema industry by which our films tell our stories. 4 Haile also suggests for the common front of African Americans in their common interests. Unless we make efforts together we cannot overcome the problem in Hollywood as it is too strong. Haile also teaches of a deep participation in one’s professions and the need to exert pressures on the development of independent African film industry. He did movies without much help from others as he was independent filmmaker who sought his own way that was uncommon both culturally in Hollywood and commercially in the then profession. To be continued ...
By Binyam Hailemeskel

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