By Yohanes Jemaneh
Inclination of the Ethiopian film industry seems a far cry from the nation’s culture and societal norms.
It reflects less the real image of people’s lives. Actors’ word usage, speech accent, dressing style as well as the accentuating music are divorced from the native decorum or societal norms. According to the Ethiopian Film Makers Association Vice- President Dessalegn Hailu, most of the nation’s films are deficient in indigenous culture for the reason that they are molded by film makers who are mainly focused in the capital.
Dessalegn also said that while the nation is rich in culture, most of the films do not reflect this reality. Even the incumbent,that has done many things, has not accorded it the required level of attention.. However, if citizens abroad, including diplomats, play due role in promoting their culture by way of buying, promoting and supporting films charged with national sentiments, the industry will thrive. Therefore, taking this in to account, the association has taken part in incorporating suggested remedial measures in the new film policy that is believed to be approved soon.
He is of the opinion that the government should see the film industry as the other manufacturing sector. Beyond its capacity to create uneasy number of jobs and earning income to the nation, the film industry is very crucial in shaping citizen’s mind through edutainment.
Therefore, more incentives should be offered to this sector. Facilitation like affording land and exemption of double taxation and other infrastructural development are very crucial inducements to the film industry. If these requirements are fulfilled, the industry is capable of enabling the nation to get equal or probably more returns than that of the government recognized manufacturing sectors’ income, according to Dessalegn.
As to him, the new film policy proposal is comprised of various supportive systems that could manage problems and propel the stagnant industry in a new flow. Among the amendments, the policy proposal contains, infrastructural development including expansion of film training institutions, organizing national film council and construction of cinemas at regional level, among others. It also incorporates incentives like tax reduction,organizing annual awards,preparing billboard tables, facilitating scholarships, securing patent right and working closely with media and other public service providers to promote the nation’s film products.
Though the problem attributable to current films being off the track of nation’s culture is lack of concept, the new policy would improve this misunderstanding by the expansion of training. And grooming producers in the perspectives of the nation’s culture will play noticeable measure in the developments of the nation distinctive cultures and languages.
Regarding the aforementioned issues, producer Tegegn Samuel seconds Dessalegn Hailu. He said that most of the Ethiopian movies failes in portraying the real shades or life and norms of the country, for the reason that their themes and settings are confined to towns while 85 per cent of citizens are rural dwellers.
He also criticized the accentuation sound tracks, subtitles and names that are displayed in the Amharic film logos as a strange looking for both native as well as foreign audiences. Odd as it may appear, the emblazoned logos of Amharic films have English titles and subtitles. The names of the producers are also written in English .This trend is foreign to the society and societal norms.
Tegegn believed that if a continual training is prepared to film makers and the industry get the required recognition of stakeholders, it will pick steam through time and it will become the bolstering giant of the nation’s economy.
The main problem in the Ethiopian film industry is lack of finance, material and expertise. Most of film producers are trained in theatrical art. However, there are notable differences between film and theater. That is why the film makers often fail to produce a movie that proves a blockbusters.
Actress Dina Mengistu notes that today a number of business personalities are engaged in the film industry. However, eyeing at amassing profits, they negatively influence film makers to be extremely business minded and sensational. Thus, this influence is indirectly harming the sector to go astray from what the discipline dictates, freedom of art. She observed that in one way or another business personalities are supporting the sector through investing their money for film production. On the other hand, they are denying producers’ liberty. Therefore, the problem ought to be addressed through a coordinated effort of these partners.
Though the film industry lies in the domain of art, which is an inborn , higher educational institutions are expected to expand educational accessibility that are mainly focused on how to handle film making. By the way, the incorporation of national and cultural sentiments in the nation’s movies will develop the theme and quality of films through reflecting the real image of the country and societal norms. So, the government should work on the expansion of cultural clubs and other similar institutions that could support the development of the nation’s culture, according to actress Dina.
Addis Ababa Bureau of Culture and Tourism Film Competition and Evaluation Officer Habtamu Teklu said that though the film industry does not generate the expected income to the nation’s economy, its capacity is increasing through time and the payment for actors and budget to certain films is also improving gradually. To strengthen the sector the bureau has tried to facilitate various training programmes, though most of the invited experts did not attend the grooming, he added.
He believed that the film industry is beset by a chain of various problems mainly with lack of policy, knowledge gaps of experts and tax problems. Noticing the queue at the gates of the capital cinemas, Habtamu said, if the sector gets the needed support and recognition it could play important role in shaping society and bolstering the national economy. That is why the bureau is doing its level best in facilitating long and shorts term training programmes and regulation modifications.
Film Director Birhanu Shibru on his part said that currently most of the nation’s films have proved disappointing in showing the current status and life system of the people. He believed that even if there are various issues and historical matters as well as distinctive cultures, the nation films are foregrounding only urban life.
He said that the interest of film makers tilts to producing films that could grab the audience’s feeling with easy and funny matters but with less or no theme. And they do not make a pre-research when they set out to produce films. The main reason to this is the influence of business personalities, who are spending money to make films looking solely its profits.
However, he said while they are few in number there are films that paint strong reality. He mentioned films like rebuni, yegir eta, lomi shita and yenegen alweldm, among others, as the notable films produced recently and which blend both the art and life status of Ethiopians.
He said if a film is made with a theme borrowed from citizens’ heartbeat, thoughts, claims and need with an attractive presentation, it no doubt will elbow aside many movies in its way into the hearts of film goers and producers alike. And it will be more educative than merely an entertainment. He pointed out the main problems of the nation film industry is lack of producers interest to dig deep in search of social issues, reluctance to engage in demanding tasks, deficiency of knowledge and capital. He observed that producers, unknowingly, mostly, cut out some significant illustrations from a certain movie during production. Even they miss the incorporation of names of the crew and year of production.
Discussing about artists performance Birhanu underlined that the actors are highly deceived by their fame and they mostly engage in wrong doings. Moreover they at times become unruly to their directors. This is another shortcoming that is straining the growth of the industry. Therefore “We need to be more critical on ethics during the training of how to make films.”
If stakeholders make a concerted effort on film, the sector will grow and be source of significant income to the nation’s economy. Moreover, it will help citizens to enjoy edutainment products by criticizing shortcomings and lauding strong sides of individuals, the society, government and institutions. Such products will also help citizens revert back and relive the time they spent together. As a film is the reflection of the society it records both positive and negative happenings of life.
Therefore, the nation film industry is mainly growing with the amendment of film policy because most of the nation problems emerge out of lack of advanced systems. He believed that if the new film policy is approved, the sector will see notable changes for the reason that the policy could have various incentives including tax cuts, training programmes, promotions, and other indispensable measures.
According to Birhanu the media also needs to play its own role by making film review, informing weekly film programmes and showing the films with legal formality. He said this means a lot to the industry because, beside boosting the number of audiences it could serve as an archive. Furthermore, the film makers could enjoy the value of their overwhelming endeavour.
To sum up, it is believed that art is instrumental in educating people of a certain country in a way facts and incidents remains seared on the mind for long. Motivating the society to rally behind the development of their nation is done through media with various mechanisms. However, since art is a life long story telling scheme, the government should complement the sector with added support.
On the other hand, the sector is one of the most profitable and economy bolstering manufacturing industry that could generate enormous job opportunities. Furthermore, it will boost the creation of conscious working task force that is a key in the development sphere. Therefore, all stakeholders ought actively engage in the development of the sector.
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