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Raphael Giuseppe 
hello once again dear viewers you're  watching Eri-TV welcome to this special edition of Open Mic with our guest for  this evening Ambessa Jir Berhe he is a  filmmaker and an assistant professor at  the Howard University Washington DC  welcome to our program  

thank you all right okay

so and our  subject for this evening is going to be  about cinemas but before we delve into  it the perspective that you have now I just want to put it in relation to the  African reality because we after all our  part of Africa so in that context would  you say well where are we there cinema  yeah well this true there's several  parts a lot of African countries are  there telling their story but telling  their story in a very was whatever they  have so and then most of it it's  actually it's a local thing they tell  their story but to all local people so  it doesn't travel outside the countries  we got a list of whatever country  there's few countries that are coming up  like Nigeria has now a little bit coming  out but it's still the production method  is a very consumption very local  oriented and so and then is also it it  you know you know it's different from  region to region and country to country  but the biggest challenge is movies that  are produced here in Africa they're not  traveling out now at the same time  moving movies or films that are produced  in Europe Asia in North America are  coming all to our houses through our TV  through our whatever digital method you  use so the consumption level is an  unbalanced we get a lot of their stuff  they get none of our stuff we got our  stuff that here's local so here's the  imbalance which I don't like the  imbalance is like okay if I'm gonna  consume sure story like my story also  has to come  and then you consume it isn't the the  playing level is not you know not equal  level one it has to do with us not  understanding the cinematic language so  we tell because we come traditionally a  lot of African country I can't  generalize all but at least in Eritrea  we come from oral tradition which is we  told our story orally so we told it not  visually in a way that is cinematic now  at the same time orally actually is also  visual because in order to explain  something you have to picture it you  have to picture it and you have to  structure it so the the problem now in  in Africa in general is the transition  from oral traditional storytelling to  cinema is interrupted because instead of  developing the oral tradition cinema was  ordered oral tradition storytelling into  cinematic language we bypassed that and  we copied the Eurocentric storytelling  and try to fit it to our storytelling in  the cinema now there's several problems  with that one is you can't fit our story  into a very structured or story way of  telling that is developed for a  different reason  and so because of that there is a gap  and so that gap to kind of to close that  gap is you have to go back understanding  oral tradition of storytelling which is  a very sophisticated way of storytelling  because those people who did that for  centuries they have a method in that  method it came year after year after  year century after century and it has  its own way of doing it we bypassed that  and then we went and then use something  else to tell our story and so so what  happened is the originality and then the  way of storytelling the way we're  supposed to do it didn't come correct it  came as a copy so because of that a lot  of African films or again films that are  produced for the local area don't really  go outside  because it really doesn't have that  uniqueness of a very specific way of  communicating the story now this  challenge for now even for me and for  other you know a lot of African  filmmakers which is like Aerosmith same  and highly or those are like the  forefront but these others are following  now they're challenging by saying okay  I'm gonna go back and then use my method  my country's method my elements method  and then transfer it into cinematic and  successfully they did accept their films  you know are rarely seen their you know  marginalize or you know they're not in  the mainstream but they're still at the  forefront of challenging that and doing  African cinema in the way it's supposed  to be and I come from that school of  thought where you know you really really  have to understand what you're doing not  only that you also really have to you  know challenge the conventional method  and then use your own method but also I  understand the cinematic language in an  imply it by that because like I say at  the beginning humans we have the same  you know emotional methods of  communication and then soul we're gonna  connect with the world we really have to  understand cinema and then understand  our culture and immediate that and then  combine those two to actually tell  powerful stories now to your question  where is the state of Africa right now  in terms of film is this you know  there's a lot of consumption there's a  lot of production going on but most of  it it's not properly here into a  cinematic language it's like a very  dialogue oriented very you know  misdirected in that sense so the  challenge is now how do you bring it  back in and just go back to like a  traditional cinematic way of telling the  story and then apply your story apply  your culture probably your tradition  apply your reality and so then you know  once you do it properly that will  care of it in terms of who's gonna see  it where it's gonna be seeing its own  I'm such a my question is there is a  balance that we need to maintain  naturally as you as you said instead of  flooding westernized sermons and movies  you know in all our African countries  literally how do we keep that balance  how do we keep that what's the approach  would you see when I say balance I'm not  saying let's cut it off let's not see  all right just in general I'm just  saying the balance because even like the  youth for example wouldn't they watch I  mean I look at them I ask them they  watch mostly current films because they  understand the communication method they  understand the cinematic language they  don't even have to understand the  language is either it's English French  or whatever language the film is  originated but they understand the  visual aspect of it because first most  of them grew up with it in second those  methods are you know normal in the film  industry the methods of you know using  visual to tell your story and so the  ambulance comes from us from here not  producing equivalent types of stories  and equivalent types of communication  now I'm not talking about this story the  story you know every story has its own  merit I'm talking about communicating  the story visually and so when you  communicate visually to a visually  sophisticated kid here in Africa now  with the you know social networking and  so on they're very sophisticated so so  they look at our films here and they  don't want to see it  because it's beyond that it's like this  they bypassed it the movies they treat  them like dumb because they feed them  everything in dialogue in in a matter of  just basically - instead instead of  challenging the viewer instead of making  the viewer actually work and  participating in the story it just gives  them everything like spoon feed them and  so that's that's the challenge that's  one of the reason that we are flooded by  their films not by our own because we're  not up to par in the challenge now the  reason for it so many things one of it  is economy you can't produce as you know  fast and as much as those films that  come to us but the image the cinematic  language is the same we can produce was  less as equal impact might not be a big  budget you know mega film but it would  be a powerful cinematic language that  that has very powerful story with a very  specific way of doing it there's films  like that  there's done so many times we all went  through them and it could be done but  it's it's what's lacking right now is  the way we communicate with our audience  so that's that's that's the reason the  imbalance I see one but in terms of  there's a distribution issue there is an  actual budget issue and then the main  one also there's an education issue when  I say education say film education issue  most of filmmakers in Africa they got  their knowledge by just scrambling by  just doing it again and again and again  and just by most of my self thought and  their self thought could get you so much  because this is not an individual field  this is a group field so you have to  have several people working with you in  order to master something and so in that  and I think there's that gap I used to  think well you know African films like  this is when I was a student filmmaker  students like African films you know  improving that but I never like  understood that the key fact to it is  the resource the resource of Education  the resource of knowledge or like West  film how film operates how do we do it  how do we do it with money how do we do  it without money how do we do it when we  have little money how do we do it with  this much people how with this little  football  all those necessary information were not  available so now I understand it now I  kind of see it I see it the lack of the  key problem is that education and so and  I think for me even coming back here  sharing my education sharing this the  thing that I gained throughout the years  from different mentors and filmmakers  and artists is the understanding of we  need to actually go back and study it we  need to really really understand this  thing in order for us to use it properly  and then use it in a way that actually  helps us civilly it's very effectively  so that was the workshop and the result  was very good because at least from last  year this year I was happy with the  result because I I saw a student  communicating a pseudo cinematic visual  image and I could show yes a couple of  them and so even like with a lot of  problems within the film they're  actually you can see it so I'll show you  one and so it's about this one actually  five minutes so they're short so we told  them to do short films because in a  month you can only do so much so gentle  among film the other one is which is a  little bit more advanced in in that  sense with that one at least from the  beginning they had a visual story  [Music]  [Applause]  [Music]  [Applause]  [Music]  you  [Music]  [Music]  now even clearly in here I'm not talking  about the story the story is bad I'm  talking about how are they communicating  their story visually so with this group  from the get-go the writing itself was  clear in terms of writing in visual time  you know because they bring the  character the character does this day as  a character does that and so on and so  on so it was clear so it when they  shattered it helped them to actually  engage us with the storyline so this  story is about two working man well two  men let's say one is educated but also  like all we do here he's also he has you  know a regular job but not enough so to  to add more money he also works as a day  laborer so that's like his life against  you know wishes of his wife and his  society because he's educated he was  supposed to be only in the office but  he's like it's not enough I need more  money so he went in his free time works  with his kid and then you have another  one who was you know strong man who's  actually acting like a blind man begging  shows the story about those two men and  they run into each other yeah so because  they're you know if the other guy is  working as a day laborer and the same  street and then the other guy is baking  in the same street and then each have  kids so the kids are the point of view  of the story so the girl you know of  course learns from her father and then  the other kid you know he's interacting  with her so the story is told through  visually soon where they go now it  didn't become okay this way so there was  a lot of visual problems that they shot  and then they brought it in and asked  them to change it because there were so  many a way of shooting that  habits habits of like overexposing over  lighting everything of in all our cinema  like everything is like just bright and  so that was the problem with this story  and then but they went back and we shot  a lot of scenes and to make it balance  and there's a lot of color correction  but what I liked about this story is the  two men story they don't have to say  anything it's just clear who are they  and what happens within this story this  is very clear because it's just done in  a in a way that tells shot after shot  after shot and then at the end the  combination of that gives us the result  of the story  

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I think this is why I like this workshop  for me and for my colleagues were at  least a little success now it's not like  we change everything no we just give a  basic and say this is how you do it  sound followed some still struggling  because those working you still exist  and that's awesome the way they do it  but in order for us to communicate  visually with the world we really have  to understand how the world communicate  with us  so survive you know give and take kind  of situation so cinema is like not one  country's property cinema is the world's  property and the way we communicate  through cinema we can communicate with  this country because stories are usually  Universal but how we put them out there  it's unique for every country for every  culture for every person you know for  every individual so that's basically  what the whole thing is I'm financing  right all right I'm just not with the  clips that you've shown us here and the  explanations the commentary you've made  about them which is quite interesting do  you believe they the ones reppin Trudeau  the ones you've been training will they  be able to tell Eretria story through  cinema yes oh this is a fine example  actually so are you confident that they  will bring this to light  not with this workshop only because you  have to understand because like I say  for even for me it took a very long  years several years studying I mean for  me I started here actually I started as  a literature I was taught you know as a  teenager through the youth organization  here and then when I went to America for  school and then in the school to  undergrad grad and then teaching and  then working in the business and several  you know in order for me to feel  confident and start saying the way I'm  saying it so it's a long-term process  but from the get-go I was in the right  direction direction of tell your stories  pneumatically and then do not compromise  tell it the way you know your culture  feels the way your tradition works you  know just go through the gut of it and  then tell it properly you know do not  compromise that's actually you know I  have mentors teachers that who really  really challenged me in that sense I'm I  veered here and there but at least  that's also internal now so this this  student their group of students first  you know last year group and you know  few of them came to this year so the  continuation was few most of them were  new but what I like about this year is  most of them were you like young I'm in  in their s and so they're at the  beginning of their filmmaking career or  and so on and so this workshop what it  did is it gives them possibility that it  could be done with whatever they have if  they put this distance this work ethic  this does this mechanism this dedication  if they study hard now they want to do a  short cut there's another way to do it  when I say short cut because there's  other filmmakers who didn't even show up  in our group who think they have it all  and I don't know them and I you know but  in terms of general you know they think  they're right yeah they might be right  for the local but in terms of I haven't  seen that something going outside and  when I was like it's like can you  communicate your film into another  festival dimension and then see they  understand your story like those two  short showed you you don't even need  subtitle you just show that people  understand what those characters are  going through and and so so the  challenge that we put on them is how do  you do that how can you do that in some  most of them understood the concept but  until they make until they train this is  not gonna happen just by you know by  just me saying it or doing workshop  that's not gonna happen the way it  happens is like this one when you do  film and you make something and then you  see it either it's gonna work or it's  not gonna work until you do that it's  just gonna be in your head and for me  the way I arrived here is I miss overall  films short some of them haven't even  seen the daylight because they were  terrible but I had to go some of those  terrible to get to the better one and so  the challenge for the student here was  you have to make several short films the  good example the example that I give is  like for example internationally who is  representing us athletes now where do  they come from I think just naturally  gifted and they just start you know  running or cycling know what we don't  know or we don't recognize it's they've  been grinding for years before they got  into the international level  and so and who are we just to jump in  and go the international level without  grinding when I say means where is the  practice where did you make your films  did you make several short films or if  you make one like one long film did you  make it the way you're supposed so like  we have the recent memories  and the cyclist several of them now when  they started where were they where they  start from the beginning  were they like really that fast no they  they might have had the talent but they  had to train and do so many sweating to  get there  so my challenge for every filmmaker that  especially the student that who came  with me is where is your training so  this is part of the training and how  much you train will dictate how much  successful won't be as a country as a  filmmakers so once we get that but if we  just want to all go make a film and then  trying to be accepted it's not gonna  work because where is the training and  this is part of it the students effort  when their own is part of it in  collaboration when they work in  collaboration is actually more power and  at the same time also film in this  country especially now is mistreated the  general cinema because our cinemas for  example in every city there is one  cinema but where is our local films we  don't show our local films what do we  show soccer games now the soccer games  it's not just soccer games just came in  to cover no because there's no film to  show our films there is soccer games be  shown in all the cinemas like I can tell  you like all the center for students  mass murder well the cinemas that I grew  up there also knows that I went got  influenced now there's no film I mean  there is some American film whatever but  where is our local films if we're going  to you know grow our local film that is  also has to be initiation from within  the government within the organization  within everything because without you  know without you know supporting it the  art you can't just say girl art no this  is a collaboration thing first it's like  let's master our techniques our cinema  and then at the same time also where do  we show it is also another challenge now  most of us was just throwing it into  YouTube YouTube is like a  pitiful that it goes there but it  doesn't really come out so but I know  the cinema is you know really is it a  promising stage because at least there's  a thought of school now we're just  saying okay this is how we do it how my  success I have a in a very optimistic  way of understanding it I have a good  hope but it depends on the student how  much they do how much they make how much  they practice and produce this is all  kind of combination all right some such  a reaction you're running out of time  but if you have any final words - well I  think my final word would be I think for  me the way the workshop happen is it  happened an accident means I didn't come  to do a workshop I do it other places I  do workshops with other filmmakers  specifically one I did in Egypt with my  teacher there from Washington DC we went  to each attended so for me that was the  beginning the beginning of connecting  with African student because that  workshop when I did it for four years I  was as an editor only and so but what it  gave me is it gave me the understanding  of I have to contribute contribute in a  way that whatever that I know in America  in Washington DC where I live where I  work where I practice my field I have  choices and a lot of African country  those choices are very limited to none  and so what I understood is what I  gained need to share it I do need to  share it I do need to kind of share it  and give back so my so there's a lot of  other artists Eritrean artists or  African artists in in any capacity that  wants to share their knowledge or their  expertise but don't know how and so for  me this is like it's an opportunity to  actually not even challenge but more  like invite that there's a way  and the way is is like how much do you  want to share if you want to share so  much there's always a way to do it so  for us it's been the second year very  successful of you know sharing in doing  the workshop in a very intense way and  on the third one I hope we get more  people from our profession Eritrean and  Eritrean doesn't matter as long as they  have that need to share their profession  so I think that's the last word all  right  we thank you for your time  dear viewers that was such a Butthead a  filmmaker an assistant professor the  Howard University in Washington DC and  he has been sharing with us his  experiences in cinematography in cinemas  in general and how best we tell our  story to the world outside all right  thank you it is I hope I made sense okay  it is good night from us  [Music]