“Young Filmmakers of Ethiopia,” a one-hour documentary produced by the associate professor of communications, will be shown at the Broadcast Education Association’s On-Location Conference, held at the University of Houston Oct. 18-20.
A one-hour documentary produced by Associate Professor Vic Costello was awarded Best of Show in the Broadcast Education Association’s Faculty Documentary Competition and will be recognized at the association’s 2018 Super-Regional Conference in October. The BEA On-Location Conference, held at the University of Houston, will screen the award-winning film on Friday, Oct. 19.
Costello’s entry, “Young Filmmakers of Ethiopia,” chronicles the struggles, challenges and opportunities of Oromo student storytellers in Ethiopia and Washington, D.C., as they pursue dreams of producing native-language films and working in their country’s nascent film industry.
Much of the documentary was shot in the capital city of Addis Ababa in 2017 during a 10-day filmmaking workshop that Costello co-led. A recap of Costello’s experience teaching film production abroad was published in June 2017.
As Costello notes in the film, “students here rely on short-term workshops like the one we conducted to fill the educational gap – since no undergraduate programs in cinema or film production currently exist.”
Students received intensive classroom instruction as well as mentoring during the production and editing of three short films scripted in advance by the participants. The documentary includes behind-the-scene stories of student writers and directors working under tight deadlines and with scant resources to plan, shoot and edit their short films in less than a week.
Costello returned to Ethiopia in July to repeat the workshop and host the premiere screening of his film at the Oromo Cultural Center in Addis Ababa. Later that week, the film was screened again at the Oromo Studies Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.
After working for more than a year on the project, Costello said, “it was special that the film’s first public audiences were members of the Oromo communities in Ethiopia and the U.S. diaspora where the story and filming took place. The timing couldn’t have been better.”
Ethiopia is a diverse nation comprised of 80 ethnic groups and 104 million residents, making it Africa’s second-largest nation by population. The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group with 35-40 million residents. Despite its rich history, culture, traditions and innate love of storytelling, Ethiopia lags far behind other African nations in film production, according to Costello. Countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and South Africa have well-established, enterprise-level film industries and are internationally renowned for producing high-quality motion pictures.
Costello believes the potential for positive change and growth in Ethiopia is higher now than ever before.
“Social and political reform is occurring at an unprecedented pace, the economy is growing, and with the recent historic peace accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea, there was a notable rise in hope and optimism among the people we met and interacted with this year,” Costello said.
He added that “traveling to Ethiopia, working with such a passionate group of aspiring young filmmakers, and being able to learn and share their stories with others through film has been an immensely rewarding opportunity and professional experience.”