Ethiopian filmmakers and those in the diaspora are uniting to improve film and television
standards in one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. Two such filmmakers are Leelai
Demoz and Henok Mebratu
US-based Leelai Demoz regularly returns home to Ethiopia to share his experiences and
knowledge with the local film industry. He participates in workshops on documentary
making, best film practices and copyright issues.
“I always encourage people in the local industry to take on interns to ensure skills
transfer,’ says Demoz. “For example, I advised an Ethiopian production (The Market
Maker) made for PBS to hire a young assistant cameraman who turned out to be very
good. He is now studying film in New York and will be a tremendous resource when he
returns to Ethiopia.’
Demoz is currently in pre-production on a feature film that will be shot in Ethiopia this
year. He is very excited about this project as he spent several years searching for the
right script. “I knew that the first project I would do in Ethiopia would have to be
something really special.’
Previously Demoz worked on two films shot in South Africa – On Tip Toe (56 mins) and
Do You Believe in Magic (80 mins) in 2008. He produced the former, which profiles
South Africa’s legendary music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and was nominated for
an Academy Award and an Emmy Award in 2001. Demoz consulted on Do You Believe in
Magic, a film about the Cape Town College of Magic.
Owner of Luscious Mayhem Productions in the US, Demoz has done lots of work in his
adopted country, including a set of public service announcements for the William
Jefferson Clinton Foundation. His television productions include Jeremy Piven’s Journey
of A Lifetime for Discovery Networks (2006) and 24 Before for MTV Networks (2008).
Addis Ababa-based Henok Mebratu, 33, has just directed and edited his latest short
environmental documentary, We All Count in Ethiopia.
He has worked on several films including the editing and visual effects for the 2007
feature Zema Hiwot (Amharic for Musical Life); directing and editing the biography Kenny
in the 251 (2009); and directing and animating Fahrenheit 212, an animation short that
was a semi-finalist in the 2010 Democracy Challenge Competition.
In the past 10 years Mebratu has been an instructor in film editing, 3D animation and
computer graphics and created his own company, Ace Advertising, in 2007.
Mebratu observes that the emerging Ethiopian film industry faces big challenges, such
as a lack of knowledge and technological awareness.
“Ethiopia doesn’t have schools that provide professional film training. About five schools
provide short term training with very few professional instructors and outdated
Further challenges that inhibit Ethiopian filmmakers are the high taxation of film
equipment, non-existent private television stations, lack of effective copyright law, very
few cinemas and limited financing options.