A beautiful and instructive interview with Haile Gerima.
First, a short excerpt, so you know what you're getting into: "They are all my enemies now. People don't know. Capitalism has made stupid people our consumers. I don't accept the public. If the public wants to escape the reality, for me they are mad. If you are looking to escape, you are running from something real. I don't want to give you the medicine. I don't want to be the one who gives you the pill to escape more. For me the colonized men and me are enemies. I am in constant fight against my colonial condition. My movie does not consider the audience, does not consider the profit, does not consider making the producers happy.
For me I lived all my life not to accept the Hollywood escaping culture, not to accept the Ethiopian, or African audience who are looking for escapism. So automatically they are in constant struggle with me. I don't go to the traditional how to appease them. I don't know how to say : let me entertain you, let me be funny here, let me give you …. So you don't leave the theater. There are more movies they can go for that."
(Africultures) Haile Gerima defines himself as Third world independent filmmaker. This formula summarizes the multiple meanings of his engaged art. Having several strings to his guitar he deserves respect in an environment where Hollywood is having quite absolute power is extremely hostile to the emergence of any free creative filmmaking. After having Emigrated to the United States since 1968, Gerima Built himself as an artist and intellectual in pursuing studies of Dramatic Arts (Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, Illinois) and Masters in Fine Arts at the University of California. Filmmaker, professor at Howard University in Washington and member of the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers, he is now a writer, philosopher, filmmaker and cultural agitators who goes in hard struggle against capitalism and inhuman soulless Hollywood machine. His films are mainly devoted to the African struggle against slavery, Sankofa, Bush Mama, Mirta Sosta Shi Amit (Harvest : 3000 Years) and against colonialism Adwa, an African victory.... In Teza, his new Feature, he makes a portrait of this generation of intellectuals who failed in the dream of building the modern Ethiopia, his homeland.
With filmmakers like Med Hondo and Souleymane Cisse, Haile Gerima is now one of the old backpackers of African cinema. In the 22nd Carthage Film Festival, Africa's oldest event dedicated to cinema, he was favorite in the race for the Golden Tanit. Indeed the success he had taken at the Venice Film Festival few weeks before, gave him an advantage over other films in the competition. The closing ceremony does not deny this. The veteran of African cinema wins top hand the first prize in addition to four other prizes best script, best picture, best second role and best music. We met him already during the festival (25 October - 01 November 2008) and we invited him to explain his concept of cinema and his commitment.
Would you compare this edition of Carthage Film Festival and the last editions you attended.
Last time I was here It was as a jury, so I didn't have time to see really the city. This time I am more free. I am moving around meeting film makers. Meeting old friends like Tahar Cheriaa, or Ferid Boughedir, is very nice for me.
People think that this festival is less African than it used to be. Do you agree?
Film makers are generally aware of pan-africanism, and Tunisia is a part of Africa. But when you meet people like Tahar Cheriaa you meet people who are the antidotes of North-African Arab confusing. It is not only about Tunisia, but most North African are schizophrenic about Africans. So people like Tahar Cheriaa, who were very pan-African like in the movie of Ferid Boughedir about African cinema show that we have to decide to be one. In the cultural climate now in all Africa, even in South Africa, none looks at the relationship between one and others. Of course the North African problem is a little bit more difficult to overcome. For me, Africa now is a total confusing, total continental confusing. When I face, for example, the encounter of the press in this festival, they are not interested in Africa, they are interested in Arab, Egyptian stars. So you come like from Hollywood stars to Arab Hollywood Stars. African film maker from sub-Sahara are alienated. You feel alienated, Unwelcome sometimes, especially because the press is ignorant. They only care about Arab film makers, Arab actors. That creates schism between people. And this is not good. We had thanks to earlier pan-African film makers who always knew each other's context and relationship. I don't know how it is with young generations of film makers, and how it manifests on young Tunisians. That's the hope you can have. You have to work from that.
Attending this festival, don't you think about the importance of such events, like Carthage or Fespaco, because there are more and more festivals in Africa and all over the world. Do you think these festivals are still having the role they were dedicated to?
I can't be sure about these two festivals because I didn't come back to them very often. So I don't know exactly what is going on with them. But it is not necessarily good that African films are showed everywhere. To show the film is easy ; To distribute it, that is really difficult. For me the issue is the absence of distribution of African cinema. You can go to a film festivals, you get a prize, you get everything, but you leave without business arrangement. To me what is killing African cinema is the absence of distribution. The rest is easy. All these film events in Europe, Africa, America…are only talks. We are not dealing with serious problems. The problem is distribution and a lot of festivals kills distribution of African cinema. I am like Med Hondo on this : don't show your film without commercial transaction. You don't show your film free to Europe. You can't show them like that and come after sixty years and say : they must be exposed to African cinema. Europeans are over exposed. Now we need distribution for our films because we need our film to help us to make another film. So for me, the next revolution is the African cinema, alternative distribution, infrastructure, to take care of welfare of African cinema. So for me film festival are not good necessarily ; one or two where there is distribution good, but world festivals not. We are not missionaries, we are not cultural missionaries to take our films. We need to know how to build an infrastructure with every film we make. So to me it is a waste of time to have all these festivals. I don't like to go to a lot of them. Few ones I will go, after that I am out.
Teza got a big success already in international festivals. It is a satisfaction for you, isn't it?
In Italy I cried because people vindicated me when they stood up. Some people from the coproduction team came to see me saying : Haile, congratulations. They were my enemies throughout. So When you finish a film like this, going through a lot, you are healed when people say thank you. In Venice, who took care about the fight. People don't know this. I am too old. When I was twenty-five, six, seven, may be thirty competing in festivals and getting prizes perhaps I would care. Now I am old, I am "nam". What I want Is my next movie, money for my next movie. You want to give me a prize, give me money. But the people when they stood applauding, when the press people, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, came to me saying thank you for your courage, for this film. This means so much. For me I am duplicated. Some people didn't like that I didn't get the first prize. But the important thing is that people came to me in peace, Not one but many, just saying thank you.
The production of the film was the very hard. How did you manage with the coproduction and with the locations having shot in two countries?
To make a film like Teza, with all the problems I faced, you cannot imagine what I went through. People put you through so much unnecessary things in spite of your talent. In this kind of world it is difficult. But when you go in a film you believe it. You go through so much hostilities. The sound guy in Germany, was a stupid gay. He gave me a hard time because I am African. Because I am black and he didn't know about human being. Two German guys stood by me. I was in a hell. For six years. After I shot in Ethiopia why I didn't shot directly in Germany. Why it took me two years to shoot a six day shoot. Why one of my coproducers could not get sixty thousand Euros. For six days shoot I was kept two years. And destroy my shooting time in Germany. I am not happy with my shooting in Germany. I have many ideas about the metaphor of Europe. I thought a lot about every location you see in my film except the german part. Because in Germany two years later there was no money so I had to change the location. Over three years I was looking for the location to shoot. All that was abolished by that lack of finances. We shoot only for six days and I have to manage with the location. But in the Ethiopian part basically, the locations are really my choice.
That's why it took me long because I don't let one producer take even one frame. Because then it is not my film. The arrangement with the people I worked with in Europe is that they have to accept that I am in charge of my intellectual rights. I am 40 per cent owner they come only as part owners not to tell me nothing about the esthetic choices of my film. If they like it. If they don't like it we say bye bye.
It took you long time also because you need that time. The editing is a very important phase in your filmmaking.
I have a kind of process. I assemble all the whole shooting without taking anything out. And I stay for many days watching. There are so many people who would not see a film for six hours. For me I am studying it, I am studying it. Then I start to work on the structure. Americans changed the idea of cinema when they named it editing. I think Russians call it montage or the French. Montage is a bad concept because you assemble. Editing you assemble and reassemble. When editing, this American mind, is like you shoot the guy who makes you angry. Gangster Americans make cinema accessible to what they call stupid people. For me the first encounter with the structure or restructure. You segment each and you play with the segments. Then you put together the segments and you watch it, you watch it. I watch more my film than editing it. I also spend more time. Once a month for example, I have to watch everything I rejected. I want to know when I was sober what I rejected when I was not. Also you are working now, you reject things. You have 30 hours to work on. And you need a cavity here, a gab there. The shot that makes the link between this scene and the next I call it the cavity. When it is missing, I am open to go back. It is hard. My student would not go back to what hours before they took out. For me I watch all the outtakes. Especially now, I used to watch it on a "movola", now I watch it on avid. I spend two weeks to watch the outtakes only, the ones I rejected of my movie. I don't bring what they call beauty shots : sunrise, landscape,… Until I come with the music later I stay with the hard shots of the story, not the beauty shots, not the transition. And later I go to look for beauty shots to make the beautification of the cinematography.
All what you see is organically arriving from the editing room. I am not the filmmaker who wants to make a script. The film grows in me and the biggest growth is during the editing. During editing the film jumps because then the script becomes movie and when it becomes a movie it gives the filmmaker a new life. Most of filmmakers in America, Europe or Africa try to oppress the film into the script form. I don't have any loyalty to anything. My script dyes when my text becomes a movie. In the editing room I edit my movie, I look at the film and I look and I look. I study it and I don't cut quickly. I am very aware when I am going to cut. For a long time I watch it, I watch it and I move or jump on logical things to do, logical to that time of my encounter of my story. I tell you the structure came out like this.
On terms of storytelling, you used a kind of flashback. But you didn't chose a linear way but you use a double movement of go and back from the present to the past and back. What is the importance of this strategy regarding the narration, what is the aim of this structure?
In a film the story is told in two times or let's say there are two phases to a film. First when we write the script, the second is in the postproduction and the editing. The idea of shifting the structure, I call it shifting instead of flashbacks because I don't want to sound film-schoolish. So what I did is within the content, the content and the relationship with the film form, I wanted a structure that lends to how I was thinking as I was shipping the film in location time looking for locations. In Mussolini mountain I only shot may be one morning. But I made at least four trying shooting up there and I have been there a lot of times. It takes you forty minutes to go up there. It is really difficult. Then I went to the cameraman. I didn't think he was he right guy and then I went to another cameraman and we went there without camera. The location is very important for me because every time I travel up there I think to my own personal changes. Per example I would be in a certain reality and suddenly I am high jacked in another reality. I say to myself how do I bring this to Teza. How Anberber world shift in him. How can I make abruption in form. The logical structure that finally ended culminated at least 30 or 40 per cent in the editing room. Although you have the same structural problems in the beginning when you write the script.
The shift is linked to my reality as Ethiopian in exile returning home and unable to cope with fundamental things that people take as normal and then I want to see how that create my ideas. So every time I go to Ethiopia, even now I am there, by the second week I want to leave, I feel I want to take the plane because I have some work to do. I am in a kind of encounter with my, I would say, contradictions. Because Ethiopia is a very difficult country. I have to accept the poverty of my own relatives, which is hard. Escaping is an alternative. They can't escape. Anberber comes now. He can't go back to Europe now and he is not going to be able to go back. He can't be there he can't be here. Every reality that he is high jacked into determines the form not my film making or to make it mechanically. Basically this structure you see is not fluid. I could make it fluid but I don't want to. When Anberber is sentimentally lost when he wanted to escape, the solder stood in front of him like a Shakespearian drama. He even never look for the fight, the fight comes to him. Every time he escapes it comes to him. Then what the Ethiopian do is to heal people by water, purification. The water purification is supposed to protect from the devil. What I did is I made this negative connotation of our tradition into a psychotherapy the water therapy makes him searching his leg. He started to ask himself when did he loose his leg. You have his leg, you have the water, you have the woman works noise, all the sounds are parts of his thinking.
The form has to obey to that. Whether the filmmakers like it whether they don't like it. Film makers, especially the editors, would like to tell me you should let it go. But no, … interruption no harmony... It is very difficult. Even when I was a student when it comes to cutting. I always looked for a new contact with my story. The form you have I call it the interpretable relationship between the form and the content. When the content is jolted your form is jolted. They all go together. That's why you have this kind of shifting : backward, forward etc. It is not only about flashbacks like what you can find in film schools. The structure is in harmony with the content. The story is about a man who returns. We doesn't know why, he came from Europe into a village and he is looking for his childhood.
But then you don't take care of the comfort of the spectator. You don't want to leave the spectator in a kind of comfort.
Oh no. They are all my enemies now. People don't know. Capitalism has made stupid people our consumers. I don't accept the public. If the public wants to escape the reality, for me they are mad. If you are looking to escape, you are running from something real. I don't want to give you the medicine. I don't want to be the one who gives you the pill to escape more. For me the colonized men and me are enemies. I am in constant fight against my colonial condition. My movie does not consider the audience, does not consider the profit, does not consider making the producers happy. For me I lived all my life not to accept the Hollywood escaping culture, not to accept the Ethiopian, or African audience who are looking for escapism. So automatically they are in constant struggle with me. I don't go to the traditional how to appease them. I don't know how to say : let me entertain you, let me be funny here, let me give you …. So you don't leave the theater. There are more movies they can go for that.
Then you make the film a little bit complicated for you. You take time for the editing. You don't take care of the comfort of the public. But also you take long time to write. Is it your rhythm or is it that you need to be sure about the choices you make.
In fact for people who will walk to see my movie I respect them. If you respect people who will see your movie then you have to really work hard with yourself. For example, I like to redraft. I am not satisfied. So for me it is very important that I spend time in the editing room respectfully. I will not edit a movie in three months, to show you. I respect too much. But I will stay at least one year to really figure out. Even if it is your story, the medium of cinema is so sophisticated, you have to go in a new struggle now. The minute you see the film, a new struggle begins. Cinema Is saying to your no, no, no… on the page it looks ok but in the cinema it doesn't do so. That is a difficult thing to swallow. But you have to be ready.
It is really that I have respect for these people who come to see my movie. I don't want to insult them for being unprepared about my work. I also try on imperfection, I love imperfection. My film is the most imperfect film in the whole festival, I know that. But in that imperfection I find the primitive Haile which is the unique part of me. Which is Haile, the gay who was born in that village, that is me. For me it is out of respect that I would say : when I am ready to show you because I can't do more. It is imperfect but I am finished now because I want to go to the next movie.
In Teza there are two kinds of positions or two moments : the first one is the illusion to be able to do something for the country, to go there bring science and cure. The second one is the disillusion when you understand that it is a mess. It is perhaps your own situation ? You passed by these two moments. You had this illusion like all your generation and then you discovered that nothing was true.
I am very coward person I can't kill, neither harm. I don't believe in ideology, I can't take guns. I believe in films. The only thing I shoot is camera. I know more people who believed in different dogmas. My generation didn't even think. They mistranslated the experiences of human revolutions. They missed the time and place. Che was a hero. But Che cannot make sense now. He only makes sense on this time of his courage. Now you try to be Che you would be ridiculous joke. Che is Che it is finished, you can't replicate him. You have to forge a new meaning for your own revolution. In a new society, in your context without losing the past. Ethiopian where not a lot. I see the Ethiopian I went to school with. They do humble things not big things that they thought they would do but teaching little kids. You know sometimes small things are enough. I was not reached by this illusion. But Anberber thought like Ethiopian of a certain generation I am speaking about. My generation was very disillusioned, we disillusioned without justification. We disillusioned because we still do not look at our role as human being would be full of mistakes but as sent by some divine providence to make some changes for the Ethiopian poor people. There is where we were lost.
So now don't retell the history. I made this movie to give people and myself the chance to repent. We have been misguided. The answer has always been under our nose in our people. But we thought we convert them like a religion doctrine by baptizing them to a socialist structure. It didn't work. It brought more chaos more disasters. The disillusion, I would say, is to bring the self critical perspective. This what Anberber means when he says : the children are not born yet, the children of the dragon will come. This is to accept you are not the absolute answer. You only can do the fertilization in your historic time. When you think yourself bigger than your choose you kill many people. So what I am saying is : do humble. There will be people who will come. Don't think you are the end. The Ethiopian people will always create history makers. Because they have them. But when a generation looks at his job in dogmatic, religious and absolute terms it faces this kind of disillusion. What I am saying is that you have no right to be disillusioned. Because you are not God. You are not able to create. You are supposed to be working for your ideas. Yes. But to be disillusioned is to take yourself too seriously. I was disillusioned but I can ask myself : What miracle did I try to make changes. It is like a generational confession, or exorcism. Because I am Christian catholic for me it is exorcism. The movie is exorcizing fault knowledge, arrogant knowledge, exorcizing generational miss-education. When we think we know we didn't know. We didn't even know we didn't know. That is amazing. I hope young Ethiopian will see in the film the generation that thought they had answers. Because now there is a confusion, there is a disillusioned generation. Every chaotic society create disillusioned people. The disillusioned people here are the new generations. Or do they have the right to be disillusioned ? No.
The story brings Anberber back to his mother house in the village. So it takes him out of civilization let's say, out of modernity. It brings him in a kind of mythological context, out of time, out of life. Is it for you that you don't talk only about the ideas and the situation that belong to Ethiopia but in a very fundamental way. Didn't you want to go back to the very simple ideas and values?
For me you can't imitate Europe and transplant it. This is my generation problem. We have to return to the sources of our Identity. My film is a return to the sources. The first part with the Ethiopian Gipsy, he could die in Europe after his accident. But you can't let him go. And the priest comes with the fire. It is like to say to childhood : courage, come, come… The priest with the fire says rise up. This is how the movie starts. This is very Ethiopian mythological thing going on. First the gipsy coming back, then the fire coming from the origin, … Ethiopia, …Africa. In Europe, Eastern-Germany where it is cold the fire says you can't die. But actually we don't know what all this means. I don't care. I don't say : by the way audience, this is what is happening to him. No I am interested to how my childhood is. Even if I am living in America I smell the chicken of my mother. There is a holyday we celebrate by making chicken, I always smell it in America that day, while my mother is cooking it in our town. All my senses are in America but I dream of here. I am here, I am there. This kind of things directed him.
What are these Ethiopian gypsies who come in the morning terrorizing you when you are child ? They sing about anti-materialism like sent by god. They say God condemn them to be reminder of the Ethiopian sinners. God commissioned them to remind Ethiopian to not be materialistic. They come in the dark before the sun rises and sing. Terrorizing but revitalizing Anberber. Childhood, fire all these are to say Europe is giving up in you. The doctor says watch on him. I was in the dark room in Germany. I had a malaria after when I shot Sankova and I was almost dying in Germany in intensive care. I used to see my kid coming awaking me. I wanted to do this in Anberber. His childhood says to him : no, you don't dye, go to this red corner in your mother's house. The red corner is the capacity of his mother to give him the only transfusion that will resurrect him. The other place where he is getting his fire is with his spiritual teacher. When he goes to see him there is always fire while students are singing studying. He goes there for the fire, for the light. All is connected. The water also. The woman he loves came out of the water the first time he saw her. She is the water-woman. All these elements are fundamental. For me having grown up in that area, these are things that kept me alive.
Is the proof that when you go to the source then you reach the universal.
We touch the universal in the particular. We think we could become automatically universal by imitating Europe or America. We don't know that by being particular you are universal. That's what I wanted to say when I say I have been duplicated. When the audience there stood for fifteen / twenty minutes after the first screening in Venice, people came to tell me : the press never applaud movies. They get up and run to see another movie. From four or five hundred person in the screening at the end you have ten or fifteen person left. Wim Wenders came to me, I don't know him, and said : I hope the world will see your film. This means a lot because I am vindicated. Some people used to say Haile is a cultural purist. I am not. I want the film to speak to me. I don't want to make film for Europe. I don't make film even for Ethiopians. Cinema has to dement the expectations invented by Hollywood. I am making a movie as a therapy of myself, to regain myself, for being disoriented about my culture, about my hope. And all I am doing is reaching gaps for my own. So When you reach people you are vindicated.
The mother has a very strange power. She was protecting Asano already before Anberber comes back. It is as if she kept her for her son. She decided already.
Asano is a gift of life. The mother is the one who can give him a new life. The blood transfusion can only come from her. His life in Germany was finished. The new life to him is through his mother. The mother is the origin of life but mainly she is the one who doesn't judge him. His brother joined the village to judge him. But she says : that's all I care about, he is back. She made a wish : if he returns she will go to the church on her knees. This is the first conflict. She is firm, she says to him : don't say that about my belief, I am going to practice my belief and do not discourage me. You cannot dis-way me from my belief. Since the beginning of the movie you know she has a cultural position. But for him to see is mother kneeling going, having come from a kind of background, is unacceptable. She is happy he came back. Her principle goes also to protect the woman. but the metaphor of her is the giving of life. She is the center of his new life. There is now regeneration of his life with his mother. If she was not there, he would kill himself. She is blood transfusion, that's the word that comes to me. Having lost his life in the accident, she brought him back to life by the fact she doesn't judge him, accept him, feed him. He doesn't believe in the water purification, but the teacher said to him : do it for your mother. He did it and it worked.
Anberber has always the idea to have a child. But in Germany he met Cassandra with whom he felt in love but he didn't make the baby with her. He went back and met this strange girl who is going around in the village and who killed her baby. With this woman exactly Anberber is having a child against all the system.
Cassandra is an outsider. Most Ethiopian at that time had white women. In eastern Germany, the problem is untold. I have known it from 1970. A black woman asked me : why do all black men only dance with white women ? This is my own experience that I put in the film. Anberber is attracted especially to the outsiders. That's why he joined the people of Marxist revolution. He wants to do something for the outsiders, people who are not in power.
What happened is that he had a baby with Cassandra but he was humanly right. She is scared that's why she said to him : you are going to leave a son and go to the revolution. His friend told him : you made her aborting and you are talking to me about how to be a good father. That's the big confrontation among foreign emigrant people in Europe or in America. We try to use women and leave and have no relationship with the new thing who is coming. The film talks also about African : we go, we have kids then we return. They love a European woman, but then they leave her and go back to marry a local wife in traditional wedding : Ghanaian, Nigerian, Tunisian, … We have done this a lot.
Cassandra is aware of this and she challenges her boyfriend : why I am here as a result of a black man who left me. You are creating a child, you have to raise him. And he was capricious. Even when she asked him : Are you ready to have a child ? The guy said : ask her. He didn't say : yes or no. and the girlfriend said : I am a Marxist, I am having a socialist relationship.
When he came back to the village, automatically he goes to the outsider girl because she is the Cassandra of that village. Cassandra in the Greek mythology brings the bad news. Asano has a baby from a notable man who went to marry a credible woman. She becomes violent. Violence comes from a shamed class. Asano is shamed for this man who is marrying a new woman. And by killing the baby by tribalism, ethnic discrimination… I am challenging myself. How to talk about outsiders in Ethiopia.
I believe the black Tunisian people are the missing chapter of the Tunisian cinema. How the black people fit in Tunisian or Algerian films. We should rethink ourselves. People ask me why am I with black Americans. Because they are outsiders. I was an Outsider when I came to America so I had automatic affinity with black people. I didn't go out and say : I want black. I just by affinity identified myself. If you look at the mixed black German kids they are very black American by culture because black American give them a window of freedom to say I am somebody, with affinity I belong there. Asano is genetically connected, by character, content, substance to Cassandra. And she is linked to that.
She is also the one who is going to give him life. From Germany he came having lost life. When he saw her she was in his mother's kitchen which is red. In Ethiopia, your mother's kitchen is always where life begins. You come home, your food is in the kitchen. When he saw her, in the red corner of his mother's kitchen he was thinking to blood transfusion, he was thinking to Cassandra and then he turns and she says to him : I am here too. She looks at him but he looks away. Cassandra is really gone. She takes him on the water and say : thank you for coming back. It sounds your mother and me thank you for coming back for us. The point is that Cassandra is really Asano and vice versa. She is everywhere. The outsiders are everywhere. Unless you go with the dominant society and forget the outsiders. I come from a house where we always identified ourselves with outsiders. We don't go with a club, with a tribe. Cassandra is my dedication to my sentiment, but it is also Asano's light.
Good things come quite always from where they are not expected to come like this byke that some people brought to him unexpectedly. Suddenly something changed completely in his mind suddenly he saw the right way.
When he was kissing the stomach of Asano and when the nightmare came to him, his child was coming. He knows now that this is his village. He finally decided that this is his village. The bicycle is there only to physicalize his role in the village. I didn't want a big Hollywood action. Suddenly the bad guys going around killing innocents. I wanted to settle. Humble changes are real. When a hero does an extraordinary thing, he does it at the expense of the population. The population think : he can do it but I can't do it. I like films which make the audience saying : I do can do it. It is not about big things. When I was student I wrote a paper about John Wayne and Charlie Chaplin. John Wayne is too big. With one bullet he kills one thousand Indians. Charlie Chaplin is the most civilized character. But Americans don't like to imitate Charlie Chaplin. They like Charlie Chaplin. They pity him, they feel sorry for him. But they like to be like John Wayne. In the end America will never be humanized like the way the Charlie Chaplin civilization proposes. Charlie Chaplin never hits you himself. What he does is he makes you hit yourself. He runs away in a circle to make you hit yourself. He makes you beat yourself by your own demon. I don't like John Wayne killing the bad people of the society and driving his horse. Charlie Chaplin says : I will not hit you guys. Beaten you back is not the answer. So I skip so that you don't hit me. But in this process you hit yourself instead of hitting me.
For me that proposition never materialized culturally in America. To become a gangster. In Africa we should not talk about heroes. Don't make them extraordinary. You make them extraordinary, you discourage the population. If you want people to transform you have to make changes possible. I like Anberber because in village I can teach. I don't need big rocket. I can start like the way he started with hot water and a piece of cloth. Before that the man came to him and said : you are a doctor cure my daughter. But he is not a medical doctor. For the Ethiopian he is a doctor, he wants to make a revolution, my daughter is sick fixe her. What he says is : I don't need a big hospital that we planned with our socialist ideas. I can use logic. The same thing with the kids in school. You see them looking at him like saying : feed me knowledge. What he does is to start with mathematics.
Some shots are not connected to the story. Sometimes you go far from the characters. When it happens that character looks at the landscape. But some shots have no link to the story. This gives to the movie a kind of depth, or poetic dimension.
It depends from the situation. When you see the gipsy you have the folk song. This means that the danger is coming and the soldiers are coming to the village. But always this landscape is connected to the temptation to escape to the beauty. But you should know that suddenly that beauty is cut before the shot ends. In Canada, someone asked me : why didn't you let the shot longer. I said you lose my story. My story is about these people but you can't afford that they can have a relationship with the mountains. Because the new violence doesn't allow them the liberty to do., what the Ethiopians do not understand especially those who don't have the historical circumstances we have. Europeans don't understand how we don't have the liberty to romanticize our childhood. Like in Bertoluci's 1900.
When I went back to Ethiopia sitting down on the coach looking back at my childhood, I saw the soldier coming and killing somebody in front of me. Yes I do would like to see this mountain. But I don't want neither to lose this reality. Anberber doesn't have the liberty to romantically remember his childhood. He sees some other kids killed. But he imagines his own childhood dying. That to me is very selfish when you look at your past sentiments. The kid is not dying like what was in Ethiopia when I grew. You only remember that violence was here. What I am saying is : Haile you can't romantically remember this.
A lot of African go back because of this. A lot of people say : take me visit this mountain. I come back from America. The kind of guy I am is when I go back I see a woman who is poor like my relatives, I am caught like this. To romanticize big wedding, fascism is in this civilization. When you have to walk on thousands of beggars to come here, that is fascism. I don't want to judge Ethiopians who tell me : we are here, We are not like you in America. One guy said to me : you are not here to give me a job, don't judge me. We have different romantic visions for Ethiopia. And now you are the new clan. I think he is right too.
I am not going to stop making movies about how I feel because then it will be too irresponsible on my part as a filmmaker. As a story teller I have to tell you in spite of their contradiction because they don't accept me in my sensibility. The liberty to be engaged with your childhood not in this third world county, Latin America, Africa, Asia,.. where there would be the best soldiers of Alkaida, the little kid you are at seven, at three, at four, by the dishes, the poverty, everything violence comes from marks you. Poverty Is the enemy of mankind, and thanks to the American empire it has created a global class blind of the origin of violence. What makes them violent by relegating human being to unacceptable shamed class position. Psychologist if they could write a writing : you shame a people, you shame a waiter, a door man, you shame him in front of his children, you create a violent guy. During the junta, all the killers came from the shamed class. All those how were ashamed by the before government. A guy from California said to me : we know Haile, how can people, people I know, turn to monsters. I said to him : you never knew them. You are building them to be monsters. When you shamed the waiter who opens the door at four o'clock in the morning for you, you created a monster because he has to get up to open to you, then at five o'clock for your children who were also in a night club. And when his kid came over and saw you ordering his father, you "mark" him. So once you shame a people you can't avoid his violence. You can't say : Oh where they come from. You have created them. It is very difficult to bring out in real cinema in the new empire. The new roman empire for me is the United States of America. They have created this global obscene capitalism. They are now willing, they are as violent as the shamed people. They are going to make our life worse. (source)
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