Spotlight: Ethiopian Movies at New African Film Festival in Maryland

Three new Ethiopian films: Fig Tree, Found in a Dream and Fortuna will be screened at the 2019 New African Film Festival at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Images: Courtesy AFI)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: March 2nd, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — The Ethiopian selections at this year’s New African Film Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland includes three movies from the Diaspora highlighting the diversity of present-day Ethiopian global experience, from being a refugee in Europe to growing up as an adopted child in Australia to an Ethiopian-Israeli story of love and separation during the turbulent 1980s.

In the film Fortuna (French and Amharic with English subtitles), Ethiopian actress Kidist Siyum plays a teenage girl named Fortuna whose family, like thousands of other Ethiopian migrants, had braved the Mediterranean in search of a better life on the other side of the sea. But Fortuna has not heard from her parents since they landed on the shores of Lampedusa, Italy. “Together with other refugees, she is given shelter for the winter in a Catholic monastery in the Swiss Alps,” the filmmakers share in their synopsis. “This is where Fortuna meets Kabir, a 26-year-old refugee with whom she falls desperately in love. Their relationship develops in secret until the day Kabir mysteriously disappears following a police raid.”

Helen Kassa’s Ethio-Australian film Found in a Dream is also slated to screen at the 2019 New African Film Festival. “Set in Australia and Ethiopia, Found in a Dream explores the journey of a young adopted Ethiopian-Australian man struggling to find his path,” the announcement said. “Abeselom (Sammi Obamah) is a drug dealer living in Melbourne. Experiencing isolation and navigating between doing what is right and doing what he must to survive, Abeselom’s world is changed when he meets a young nurse named Netsanet (Netsanet Tefera). Found in a Dream is about love, culture and, ultimately, finding comfort within connection.”

The third film tilted Fig Tree (Ye Shola Zaff) takes place in Addis Ababa at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War in the late 1980s. Fig Tree is directed by Ethiopian-Israeli filmmaker and writer Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian. “Sixteen-year-old Mina (newcomer Betalehem Asmamawe) lives with her brother and grandmother in a humble house with newsprint for wallpaper,” notes the film summary. “The family is Jewish and is planning to flee Ethiopia for Israel, where Mina’s mother awaits. But this plan leaves out the person Mina loves most: Eli, her Christian boyfriend, who lives in the woods so as to evade being drafted into Mengistu Haile Mariam’s army. When Mina hatches a scheme to save Eli, everyone and everything seems set against her. Fig Tree offers a rare opportunity to better understand the impact of civil war on the lives of ordinary people — and it pulls no punches.”

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