Haile Gerima: The Mythmaker
Haile Gerima is an Ethiopian film director, critic and professor. Raised in Gondar, Ethiopia, as a child, he acted in his father’s troupe performing across the country.In 1967, he moved to the United States and two years later enrolled in the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) drama school. There he became familiar with the ideas of Malcolm X and wrote plays about slavery and black militancy.
After reading the revolutionary theory of Third Cinema, however, Gerima began to experiment with film. He returned to Ethiopia in 1974 to film Harvest:3,000 Years, his first full-length film and the only one of his works to be shot in Africa.
Although famine and the recent military overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie placed severe restrictions on the film crew, the final result was a sophisticated examination,through the story of a village that finally overthrow its feudal landlord, of the centuries-old oppression of the Ethiopian peasantry.
The film was well received on the international film circuit and won the 1976 Oscar Micheaux Award for Best Feature Film from the Black Filmmakers Hall Of Fame.
Since Harvest, most of Gerima’s film projects have examined problems facing African Americans. Although he is Ethiopia’s best known film director, he has spent most of his career in the United States. In 1976, he released Bush Mama. A black and white film about the political awakening of a black welfare mother.
That same year, he joined the faculty of Howard University. In 1977, he released a documentary on the case of the Wilmington 10, Wilmington 10-USA 10,000, which he made with the help of students at Howard University and volunteers from the local community.
In 1982, he finished Ashes and Embers, a story about African American Vietnam veterans, and in 1985 released After Winter: Sterling Brown, a documentary about Sterling Brown, also made with student cooperation.
Adwa-An African Victory (1999)
Although Gerima has worked and lived in the United States since 1969, he maintains close ties to other African Film directors. An active member of the Federation Panafricaine des Cineaste and the Comite Africain des Cineastes, he has coordinated several colloquiums and meetings of African film directors in the US. His own studio, Mypheduh Films, Inc, is one of the leading distributors of films by Africans and African Americans in America.