Tadias Interview with Filmmaker Yidnekachew Shumete

Yidnekachew Shumete in New York on December 8th, 2013. (Photo: By Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tigist Selam
Written by Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — “The stories that we project on the big screen have an influence on the audience, so it’s important how well you tell it,” says Ethiopian filmmaker Yidnekachew Shumete, the director and writer of Nishan, which premiered in New York this past December at the African Diaspora International Film Festival. Released in 2013 Nishan is Yidnekachew’s second film following his successful 2007 drama Siryet. The former highlights a striking Ethiopian female character named Nishan, portrayed beautifully by his talented wife and actress Bertukan Befkadu, who is keen on obtaining a visa to live abroad, but gets ensnared in a series of dangerous events including a break-in at her family residence. In an effort to protect those she loves and honor the valor of a courageous patriot whose property has been stolen she also realizes that her desire for a better life should be started not overseas but at home.

“Filmmakers have to be one step ahead of the stories they are telling,” said Yidnekachew in an interview with Tadias after the NYC screening of Nishan on December 8th, 2013. “When I started working on Nishan’s script I stopped working as an instructor,” he recalled. “That was about was 3 or 4 years ago.”

Yidnekachew, who was born in 1981 in Addis Ababa came of age in the 1990′s when there was no film industry to speak of in Ethiopia. Fast-forward to 2014: today he is not only a trailblazer locally in the fledgling field, but also a former cinema teacher and founder of Kurat Pictures, plc, producing and distributing his films. “Luckily, my journey in making movies has come from the school and I have established a certain track record so it’s easier for me to find interested people to invest,” he said, adding that “it’s not the same for everyone.” He cautions “If you are beginning from scratch, it’s very difficult. The film industry in Ethiopia is in its infant stages.”

“Either the money comes from your own pocket or someone who can trust you, like a rich uncle, big brother, family member, or friend who is confident in your work,” he stated. And once in a blue moon an angel investor might pop up from Merkato. “People from Markato who have the money come and ask if they can hire a filmmaker because they have heard that film actually makes money,” he said. “There are a number of people who have succeeded in doing so. They don’t have any idea about the art, but they buy scripts and produce movies, I mean if the film does well, they will make another one, if not, they go home and do some other business. Other than that, there is no specific financing system.”

For Yidnekachew, however, even with the limited resources available for quality production, his objective is to raise the standard of filmmaking in Ethiopia — from script writing to soundmixing, and cinematography — to an international level. “If you noticed it took me six to seven years to make my second film,” he emphasized. “That’s partly because I could not find scripts that interested me.” Yidnekachew said it’s precisely the reason why he wrote the script for Nishan (Amharic with English subtitles) himself. “If I had very interesting scripts from other writers I wouldn’t force myself to write one,” he said. “As a filmmaker I feel responsible as to what kind of stories I am telling and how well I tell it.”

Below are photos from the festival and trailer of Nishan:

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