Nesanet Teshager Abegaze’s Film “Bereka” Goes to Sundance 2020 Festival

Nesanet Teshager Abegaze’s Film “Bereka” is set to be screened at the 2020 Sundance Festival in January. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: December 23rd, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — Entrepreneur, Educator and Storyteller, Nesanet Teshager Abegaze, will be screening her short film entitled “Bereka” at the Sundance 2020 Festival in January. Held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sundance is considered America’s largest independent film festival and takes place this coming year from January 23rd to February 2nd, 2020.

This past August “Bereka” was screened at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia where it won the Best Experimental Film award.

Named after the third round of the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, “Bereka” is a heart-stopping experimental film sharing a family’s sudden departure from Gondar, Ethiopia and the triumphant return of grandchildren to their ancestral home. Narrated in English and Amharic by matriarch Azla Mekonnen as well as her granddaughter Samira Hooks — and shot on Super 8 film in Los Angeles, CA and Gondar, Ethiopia — “Bereka” evokes searing memories related to forced migration, resettlement, growth, a deep yearning to discover heritage, and a return of the heart to what will always be “home.” Asked about how she developed the concept and narration of her short film, Nesanet shared that she had been recording audio as part of a family archive project through the years and had also begun to add footage when the idea for this short came to the forefront of her mind. “The whole film came together in a very organic way,” she said.

Nesanet Teshager Abegaze at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia, August 2019. (Courtesy of the artist)

We first wrote about Nesanet six years ago when she launched Azla, a plant-based Ethiopian restaurant in South Central Los Angeles. Named after her mother and business partner, Azla, the restaurant has been featured on Food Network in 2016 as well as in numerous publications including Serious Eats, KCRW, and Complex.

Nesanet holds a Bachelors degree in Human Biology from Stanford University and a Master’s in Education from UCLA, and previously worked in the education, non-profit, and entertainment sectors before launching her own business and later joining Echo Park Film Center as a Fellow. As shared on her website, Nesanet “recognized the power of the moving image during her freshman year in high school when she saw “Imperfect Journey,” a documentary by the legendary filmmaker Haile Gerima, that changed her life trajectory.”

According Sundance’s press release the 2020 list of films to be screened at the festival were “selected from a record high of 15,100 submissions including 3,853 feature-length films.” Robert Redford, the President & Founder of Sundance Institute, noted that “this year’s festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds and societies.” Executive Director of Sundance, Keri Putnam added that the institute believes that “diverse stories from independent artists around the world open us up to new perspectives and possibilities – at a time when fresh thinking and dialogue is urgently needed.”

Congratulations to Nesanet Teshager Abegaze for her film’s win this year at BlackStar Film Festival, and now heading to Sundance 2020 to be screened under “Shorts Program 4!”

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