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hello once again dear viewers you're

00:30

watching era TV welcome to this special

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edition of open mic with our guest for

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this evening Ambessa Jir but he is a

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filmmaker and an assistant professor at

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the Howard University Washington DC

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welcome to our program

00:45

thank you all right okay so and our

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subject for this evening is going to be

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about cinemas but before we delve into

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it the perspective that you have now I

00:55

just want to put it in relation to the

00:57

African reality because we after all our

01:01

part of Africa so in that context would

01:05

you say well where are we there cinema

01:09

yeah well this true there's several

01:13

parts a lot of African countries are

01:15

there telling their story but telling

01:18

their story in a very was whatever they

01:22

have so and then most of it it's

01:26

actually it's a local thing they tell

01:29

their story but to all local people so

01:31

it doesn't travel outside the countries

01:34

we got a list of whatever country

01:36

there's few countries that are coming up

01:37

like Nigeria has now a little bit coming

01:40

out but it's still the production method

01:43

is a very consumption very local

01:46

oriented and so and then is also it it

01:51

you know you know it's different from

01:52

region to region and country to country

01:55

but the biggest challenge is movies that

01:59

are produced here in Africa they're not

02:01

traveling out now at the same time

02:04

moving movies or films that are produced

02:07

in Europe Asia in North America are

02:11

coming all to our houses through our TV

02:14

through our whatever digital method you

02:18

use so the consumption level is an

02:20

unbalanced we get a lot of their stuff

02:23

they get none of our stuff we got our

02:26

stuff that here's local so here's the

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imbalance which I don't like the

02:30

imbalance is like okay if I'm gonna

02:32

consume sure story like my story also

02:36

has to come

02:36

and then you consume it isn't the the

02:40

playing level is not you know not equal

02:43

level one it has to do with us not

02:48

understanding the cinematic language so

02:51

we tell because we come traditionally a

02:53

lot of African country I can't

02:54

generalize all but at least in Eritrea

02:56

we come from oral tradition which is we

02:59

told our story orally so we told it not

03:03

visually in a way that is cinematic now

03:06

at the same time orally actually is also

03:08

visual because in order to explain

03:10

something you have to picture it you

03:13

have to picture it and you have to

03:14

structure it so the the problem now in

03:18

in Africa in general is the transition

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from oral traditional storytelling to

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cinema is interrupted because instead of

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developing the oral tradition cinema was

03:29

ordered oral tradition storytelling into

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cinematic language we bypassed that and

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we copied the Eurocentric storytelling

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and try to fit it to our storytelling in

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the cinema now there's several problems

03:45

with that one is you can't fit our story

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into a very structured or story way of

03:53

telling that is developed for a

03:55

different reason

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and so because of that there is a gap

04:00

and so that gap to kind of to close that

04:03

gap is you have to go back understanding

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oral tradition of storytelling which is

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a very sophisticated way of storytelling

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because those people who did that for

04:12

centuries they have a method in that

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method it came year after year after

04:17

year century after century and it has

04:19

its own way of doing it we bypassed that

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and then we went and then use something

04:24

else to tell our story and so so what

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happened is the originality and then the

04:29

way of storytelling the way we're

04:31

supposed to do it didn't come correct it

04:34

came as a copy so because of that a lot

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of African films or again films that are

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produced for the local area don't really

04:45

go outside

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because it really doesn't have that

04:49

uniqueness of a very specific way of

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communicating the story now this

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challenge for now even for me and for

04:59

other you know a lot of African

05:01

filmmakers which is like Aerosmith same

05:04

and highly or those are like the

05:07

forefront but these others are following

05:11

now they're challenging by saying okay

05:13

I'm gonna go back and then use my method

05:16

my country's method my elements method

05:19

and then transfer it into cinematic and

05:22

successfully they did accept their films

05:25

you know are rarely seen their you know

05:28

marginalize or you know they're not in

05:31

the mainstream but they're still at the

05:33

forefront of challenging that and doing

05:36

African cinema in the way it's supposed

05:39

to be and I come from that school of

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thought where you know you really really

05:43

have to understand what you're doing not

05:47

only that you also really have to you

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know challenge the conventional method

05:54

and then use your own method but also I

05:58

understand the cinematic language in an

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imply it by that because like I say at

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the beginning humans we have the same

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you know emotional methods of

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communication and then soul we're gonna

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connect with the world we really have to

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understand cinema and then understand

06:14

our culture and immediate that and then

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combine those two to actually tell

06:20

powerful stories now to your question

06:21

where is the state of Africa right now

06:24

in terms of film is this you know

06:27

there's a lot of consumption there's a

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lot of production going on but most of

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it it's not properly here into a

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cinematic language it's like a very

06:38

dialogue oriented very you know

06:41

misdirected in that sense so the

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challenge is now how do you bring it

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back in and just go back to like a

06:48

traditional cinematic way of telling the

06:51

story and then apply your story apply

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your culture probably your tradition

06:55

apply your reality and so then you know

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once you do it properly that will

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care of it in terms of who's gonna see

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it where it's gonna be seeing its own

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I'm such a my question is there is a

07:10

balance that we need to maintain

07:12

naturally as you as you said instead of

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flooding westernized sermons and movies

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you know in all our African countries

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literally how do we keep that balance

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how do we keep that what's the approach

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would you see when I say balance I'm not

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saying let's cut it off let's not see

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all right just in general I'm just

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saying the balance because even like the

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youth for example wouldn't they watch I

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mean I look at them I ask them they

07:40

watch mostly current films because they

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understand the communication method they

07:48

understand the cinematic language they

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don't even have to understand the

07:51

language is either it's English French

07:54

or whatever language the film is

07:58

originated but they understand the

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visual aspect of it because first most

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of them grew up with it in second those

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methods are you know normal in the film

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industry the methods of you know using

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visual to tell your story and so the

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ambulance comes from us from here not

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producing equivalent types of stories

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and equivalent types of communication

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now I'm not talking about this story the

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story you know every story has its own

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merit I'm talking about communicating

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the story visually and so when you

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communicate visually to a visually

08:43

sophisticated kid here in Africa now

08:45

with the you know social networking and

08:47

so on they're very sophisticated so so

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they look at our films here and they

08:53

don't want to see it

08:54

because it's beyond that it's like this

08:56

they bypassed it the movies they treat

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them like dumb because they feed them

09:04

everything in dialogue in in a matter of

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just basically - instead instead of

09:14

challenging the viewer instead of making

09:16

the viewer actually work and

09:18

participating in the story it just gives

09:20

them everything like spoon feed them and

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so that's that's the challenge that's

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one of the reason that we are flooded by

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their films not by our own because we're

09:30

not up to par in the challenge now the

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reason for it so many things one of it

09:35

is economy you can't produce as you know

09:39

fast and as much as those films that

09:42

come to us but the image the cinematic

09:47

language is the same we can produce was

09:49

less as equal impact might not be a big

09:53

budget you know mega film but it would

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be a powerful cinematic language that

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that has very powerful story with a very

10:02

specific way of doing it there's films

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like that

10:05

there's done so many times we all went

10:09

through them and it could be done but

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it's it's what's lacking right now is

10:15

the way we communicate with our audience

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so that's that's that's the reason the

10:20

imbalance I see one but in terms of

10:23

there's a distribution issue there is an

10:28

actual budget issue and then the main

10:32

one also there's an education issue when

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I say education say film education issue

10:37

most of filmmakers in Africa they got

10:41

their knowledge by just scrambling by

10:43

just doing it again and again and again

10:46

and just by most of my self thought and

10:48

their self thought could get you so much

10:51

because this is not an individual field

10:54

this is a group field so you have to

10:56

have several people working with you in

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order to master something and so in that

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and I think there's that gap I used to

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think well you know African films like

11:07

this is when I was a student filmmaker

11:09

students like African films you know

11:11

improving that but I never like

11:14

understood that the key fact to it is

11:17

the resource the resource of Education

11:21

the resource of knowledge or like West

11:23

film how film operates how do we do it

11:25

how do we do it with money how do we do

11:27

it without money how do we do it when we

11:29

have little money how do we do it with

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this much people how with this little

11:33

football

11:33

all those necessary information were not

11:37

available so now I understand it now I

11:39

kind of see it I see it the lack of the

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key problem is that education and so and

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I think for me even coming back here

11:52

sharing my education sharing this the

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thing that I gained throughout the years

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from different mentors and filmmakers

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and artists is the understanding of we

12:06

need to actually go back and study it we

12:10

need to really really understand this

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thing in order for us to use it properly

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and then use it in a way that actually

12:18

helps us civilly it's very effectively

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so that was the workshop and the result

12:24

was very good because at least from last

12:29

year this year I was happy with the

12:31

result because I I saw a student

12:35

communicating a pseudo cinematic visual

12:39

image and I could show yes a couple of

12:42

them and so even like with a lot of

12:44

problems within the film they're

12:46

actually you can see it so I'll show you

12:52

one and so it's about this one actually

12:59

five minutes so they're short so we told

13:01

them to do short films because in a

13:03

month you can only do so much so gentle

13:06

among film the other one is which is a

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little bit more advanced in in that

13:16

sense with that one at least from the

13:19

beginning they had a visual story

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you

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now even clearly in here I'm not talking

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about the story the story is bad I'm

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talking about how are they communicating

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their story visually so with this group

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from the get-go the writing itself was

15:10

clear in terms of writing in visual time

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you know because they bring the

15:16

character the character does this day as

15:18

a character does that and so on and so

15:20

on so it was clear so it when they

15:22

shattered it helped them to actually

15:24

engage us with the storyline so this

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story is about two working man well two

15:33

men let's say one is educated but also

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like all we do here he's also he has you

15:43

know a regular job but not enough so to

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to add more money he also works as a day

15:49

laborer so that's like his life against

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you know wishes of his wife and his

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society because he's educated he was

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supposed to be only in the office but

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he's like it's not enough I need more

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money so he went in his free time works

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with his kid and then you have another

16:05

one who was you know strong man who's

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actually acting like a blind man begging

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shows the story about those two men and

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they run into each other yeah so because

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they're you know if the other guy is

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working as a day laborer and the same

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street and then the other guy is baking

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in the same street and then each have

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kids so the kids are the point of view

16:33

of the story so the girl you know of

16:36

course learns from her father and then

16:38

the other kid you know he's interacting

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with her so the story is told through

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visually soon where they go now it

16:46

didn't become okay this way so there was

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a lot of visual problems that they shot

16:52

and then they brought it in and asked

16:54

them to change it because there were so

16:56

many a way of shooting that

17:01

habits habits of like overexposing over

17:04

lighting everything of in all our cinema

17:08

like everything is like just bright and

17:10

so that was the problem with this story

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and then but they went back and we shot

17:14

a lot of scenes and to make it balance

17:16

and there's a lot of color correction

17:18

but what I liked about this story is the

17:22

two men story they don't have to say

17:24

anything it's just clear who are they

17:27

and what happens within this story this

17:30

is very clear because it's just done in

17:33

a in a way that tells shot after shot

17:36

after shot and then at the end the

17:38

combination of that gives us the result

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of the story

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I think this is why I like this workshop

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for me and for my colleagues were at

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least a little success now it's not like

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we change everything no we just give a

20:28

basic and say this is how you do it

20:30

sound followed some still struggling

20:33

because those working you still exist

20:36

and that's awesome the way they do it

20:38

but in order for us to communicate

20:40

visually with the world we really have

20:43

to understand how the world communicate

20:45

with us

20:46

so survive you know give and take kind

20:48

of situation so cinema is like not one

20:51

country's property cinema is the world's

20:53

property and the way we communicate

20:56

through cinema we can communicate with

20:59

this country because stories are usually

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Universal but how we put them out there

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it's unique for every country for every

21:07

culture for every person you know for

21:09

every individual so that's basically

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what the whole thing is I'm financing

21:14

right all right I'm just not with the

21:16

clips that you've shown us here and the

21:19

explanations the commentary you've made

21:21

about them which is quite interesting do

21:25

you believe they the ones reppin Trudeau

21:30

the ones you've been training will they

21:32

be able to tell Eretria story through

21:35

cinema yes oh this is a fine example

21:38

actually so are you confident that they

21:41

will bring this to light

21:44

not with this workshop only because you

21:47

have to understand because like I say

21:50

for even for me it took a very long

21:52

years several years studying I mean for

21:57

me I started here actually I started as

21:59

a literature I was taught you know as a

22:02

teenager through the youth organization

22:04

here and then when I went to America for

22:08

school and then in the school to

22:10

undergrad grad and then teaching and

22:13

then working in the business and several

22:15

you know in order for me to feel

22:18

confident and start saying the way I'm

22:20

saying it so it's a long-term process

22:24

but from the get-go I was in the right

22:27

direction direction of tell your stories

22:30

pneumatically and then do not compromise

22:32

tell it the way you know your culture

22:37

feels the way your tradition works you

22:41

know just go through the gut of it and

22:43

then tell it properly you know do not

22:45

compromise that's actually you know I

22:47

have mentors teachers that who really

22:51

really challenged me in that sense I'm I

22:53

veered here and there but at least

22:55

that's also internal now so this this

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student their group of students first

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you know last year group and you know

23:04

few of them came to this year so the

23:07

continuation was few most of them were

23:10

new but what I like about this year is

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most of them were you like young I'm in

23:17

in their 20s and so they're at the

23:20

beginning of their filmmaking career or

23:23

and so on and so this workshop what it

23:27

did is it gives them possibility that it

23:31

could be done with whatever they have if

23:33

they put this distance this work ethic

23:35

this does this mechanism this dedication

23:38

if they study hard now they want to do a

23:41

short cut there's another way to do it

23:43

when I say short cut because there's

23:45

other filmmakers who didn't even show up

23:46

in our group who think they have it all

23:49

and I don't know them and I you know but

23:53

in terms of general you know they think

23:55

they're right yeah they might be right

23:57

for the local but in terms of I haven't

23:59

seen that something going outside and

24:02

when I was like it's like can you

24:04

communicate your film into another

24:07

festival dimension and then see they

24:11

understand your story like those two

24:13

short showed you you don't even need

24:15

subtitle you just show that people

24:18

understand what those characters are

24:20

going through and and so so the

24:23

challenge that we put on them is how do

24:25

you do that how can you do that in some

24:27

most of them understood the concept but

24:30

until they make until they train this is

24:34

not gonna happen just by you know by

24:38

just me saying it or doing workshop

24:40

that's not gonna happen the way it

24:43

happens is like this one when you do

24:46

film and you make something and then you

24:49

see it either it's gonna work or it's

24:51

not gonna work until you do that it's

24:54

just gonna be in your head and for me

24:56

the way I arrived here is I miss overall

24:59

films short some of them haven't even

25:02

seen the daylight because they were

25:04

terrible but I had to go some of those

25:06

terrible to get to the better one and so

25:10

the challenge for the student here was

25:11

you have to make several short films the

25:15

good example the example that I give is

25:17

like for example internationally who is

25:19

representing us athletes now where do

25:22

they come from I think just naturally

25:25

gifted and they just start you know

25:26

running or cycling know what we don't

25:30

know or we don't recognize it's they've

25:32

been grinding for years before they got

25:34

into the international level

25:36

and so and who are we just to jump in

25:39

and go the international level without

25:41

grinding when I say means where is the

25:45

practice where did you make your films

25:47

did you make several short films or if

25:49

you make one like one long film did you

25:51

make it the way you're supposed so like

25:53

we have the recent memories

25:55

and the cyclist several of them now when

25:59

they started where were they where they

26:02

start from the beginning

26:03

were they like really that fast no they

26:06

they might have had the talent but they

26:08

had to train and do so many sweating to

26:12

get there

26:13

so my challenge for every filmmaker that

26:16

especially the student that who came

26:18

with me is where is your training so

26:20

this is part of the training and how

26:22

much you train will dictate how much

26:25

successful won't be as a country as a

26:27

filmmakers so once we get that but if we

26:30

just want to all go make a film and then

26:33

trying to be accepted it's not gonna

26:36

work because where is the training and

26:38

this is part of it the students effort

26:41

when their own is part of it in

26:43

collaboration when they work in

26:45

collaboration is actually more power and

26:47

at the same time also film in this

26:51

country especially now is mistreated the

26:54

general cinema because our cinemas for

26:59

example in every city there is one

27:02

cinema but where is our local films we

27:06

don't show our local films what do we

27:08

show soccer games now the soccer games

27:12

it's not just soccer games just came in

27:14

to cover no because there's no film to

27:17

show our films there is soccer games be

27:20

shown in all the cinemas like I can tell

27:22

you like all the center for students

27:24

mass murder well the cinemas that I grew

27:26

up there also knows that I went got

27:28

influenced now there's no film I mean

27:31

there is some American film whatever but

27:33

where is our local films if we're going

27:35

to you know grow our local film that is

27:38

also has to be initiation from within

27:40

the government within the organization

27:42

within everything because without you

27:45

know without you know supporting it the

27:48

art you can't just say girl art no this

27:51

is a collaboration thing first it's like

27:53

let's master our techniques our cinema

27:56

and then at the same time also where do

27:59

we show it is also another challenge now

28:01

most of us was just throwing it into

28:04

YouTube YouTube is like a

28:05

pitiful that it goes there but it

28:08

doesn't really come out so but I know

28:12

the cinema is you know really is it a

28:15

promising stage because at least there's

28:18

a thought of school now we're just

28:20

saying okay this is how we do it how my

28:23

success I have a in a very optimistic

28:26

way of understanding it I have a good

28:29

hope but it depends on the student how

28:33

much they do how much they make how much

28:35

they practice and produce this is all

28:38

kind of combination all right some such

28:40

a reaction you're running out of time

28:42

but if you have any final words - well I

28:47

think my final word would be I think for

28:50

me the way the workshop happen is it

28:52

happened an accident means I didn't come

28:54

to do a workshop I do it other places I

28:56

do workshops with other filmmakers

29:00

specifically one I did in Egypt with my

29:05

teacher there from Washington DC we went

29:07

to each attended so for me that was the

29:09

beginning the beginning of connecting

29:12

with African student because that

29:14

workshop when I did it for four years I

29:16

was as an editor only and so but what it

29:20

gave me is it gave me the understanding

29:23

of I have to contribute contribute in a

29:26

way that whatever that I know in America

29:30

in Washington DC where I live where I

29:34

work where I practice my field I have

29:37

choices and a lot of African country

29:40

those choices are very limited to none

29:42

and so what I understood is what I

29:45

gained need to share it I do need to

29:49

share it I do need to kind of share it

29:52

and give back so my so there's a lot of

29:56

other artists Eritrean artists or

29:58

African artists in in any capacity that

30:01

wants to share their knowledge or their

30:04

expertise but don't know how and so for

30:08

me this is like it's an opportunity to

30:10

actually not even challenge but more

30:13

like invite that there's a way

30:16

and the way is is like how much do you

30:18

want to share if you want to share so

30:21

much there's always a way to do it so

30:23

for us it's been the second year very

30:26

successful of you know sharing in doing

30:30

the workshop in a very intense way and

30:32

on the third one I hope we get more

30:35

people from our profession Eritrean and

30:37

Eritrean doesn't matter as long as they

30:40

have that need to share their profession

30:42

so I think that's the last word all

30:45

right

30:45

we thank you for your time

30:48

dear viewers that was such a Butthead a

30:52

filmmaker an assistant professor the

30:56

Howard University in Washington DC and

30:58

he has been sharing with us his

30:59

experiences in cinematography in cinemas

31:02

in general and how best we tell our

31:06

story to the world outside all right

31:09

thank you it is I hope I made sense okay

31:12

it is good night from us

31:16

[Music]