Adwa: An African Victory.



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Haile Gerima discusses "The John Wayne generation." Haile Gerima started out performing in his father's plays. His father trained as a priest, and eventually became a traditional playwright. His father's grandfather was a teacher. In his youth, they were so inundated with the European history of domination that people had begun to doubt that any African country could have withstood colonization. Ethiopian history was not portrayed in a spectacular fashion. Ethiopian traditional plays are in both oral and written tradition. These plays use epic poems that portray historic events. Ethiopia was becoming a worshipper of the U.S. as the ideal of modernization.

What were students and young adults learning under the 'Westernized' Educational System?

They were learning the history of Europe, particularly Western Europe. English designed schools and the Americans took over; in this era, film became popular. Westernizers transplanted notions of objectifying women - from African ideals of motherhood to entertainment and sex to promote goods.

Was this an urban or rural phenomenon?

More of an urban phenomenon.

Why did you make the battle of Adwa into a film?

Adwa: An African Victory was made for himself. But I got into it through reading Dubois and Garvey. [I'm] part of the 'Lost Generation.'

What effect did Ethiopia have on the Pan-African movement?

However, Emperor Menelik was honorary chair of Pan-African Conference.

How would you describe those who battled at Adwa?

These fighters at Adwa were tenacious.

Could the film: Adwa: An African Victory inspire anti-colonial movements the Americas?

[I] have political solidarity with Native Americans, and Chicanos, but "you make a diet about people who are hungry." It doesn't necessarily increase world peace.

When did you begin working on the film?

Adwa: An African Victory was begun in 1996.

What effect has the film industry had on Ethiopian Americans, particularly since the famine of the 1980's?

[I] have no access to the base of people who are privileged. There are a number of Ethiopians who don't care about their history.

What do you think of 'Nollywood?"

Nollywood is right a nightmare for African film. It's not anti-colonialist; it is not intellectual or socially oriented; it is emotional exploitation; it is an imitation of Hollywood. It's pedantic. Just cashing in. But out of it, young Nigerians may explode.

Do you think that Adwa: An African Victory is relevant at this time? Can it inspire peace between Muslims and Christians?

He sees all religions [as] disenfranchising Africa. Even Christianity. He's interested in pre-Christian spiritual order. Many people use drugs, makeup and religion to escape Africa. Why were the invading Muslims and Christians afraid of Africa's personality and spiritual foundations?

Where should we look for African spirituality?

We have to look further back than Egypt. Even further back to Kush and Nubia. Without understanding Africa, all measurements and ideas are destabilized. The origin of the spirituality of Africa is centered in Kush.

Why do you make films?

Not filmmaking for market, but instead for interest. Africans' problems are that imagination is being enslaved.

What is the goal of filmmaking?

You don't want it to be a "cash crop" of power structure. [For example,] I have had good responses to Adwa [An African Victory]. Every film gives the opportunity to find yourself.

What obstacles have you faced in making your films?

Has people who refuse finance, but who admire completed work. Church organizations are excellent fundraisers. Some see me as a threat for criticizing Hollywood.

[Interviewer's Note: Many thanks to Haile for letting me refer to "Adwa: An African Victory" as "The Battle of Adwa."]