It is a significant part of Ethiopian History we all know well but sometimes forget what it actually means for each of us individually. It is the year 1896; The Italian army comprising of four brigades totaling 17,978 troops and Ethiopian forces under Menelik II ranging from a low of 73,000 to a high of over 120,000, consisting of rifle men, but mostly cavalry and infantry only armed with lances. The two forces meet in Adwa, Tigray for the first Italo-Ethiopian War. Ethiopia leaves the battlefield victorious.
The immediate aftermath of the war resulted in the Italians flight to Eritrea, leaving behind all of their artillery and 11,000 rifles, as well as most of their transportation means. The Italian army led by Oreste Baratieri, commander of the Italian forces, had been completely annihilated while Menelik’s was intact as a fighting force and gained thousands of rifles and a great deal of equipment from the fleeing Italians.
A lot has been said about Adwa. Documentaries have been produced and poems and books have been written. And now it looks like we will be experiencing the extraordinary story through a feature film. On Thursday, November 22, 2012, MASA Communications and Events held a press conference to announce the Adwa film project that is estimated to cost over 35 million birr.
The film script, which was written and will be produced by Abate Mekuria, will be produced in collaboration with Ethiopian and Indian film experts. “We have already made arrangements with a Bollywood film crew to provide assistance in the making of the film,” said Abayneh Assefa, General Manager of MASA Communication and Events.
Questions were raised at the press conference as to why the production company didn’t work with African film experts. “We know that there are a lot of good film experts in Africa but it comes down to which ones are cheaper; we found that the Indians offered a better price, so we agreed to work with them,” stated Abate Mekuria, writer and director of the film.
The film is expected to take two years to finish. Scenes will be shot in different locations like Harar, Jimma, Adigrat as well as the setting of the battle, Adwa. “This is a memorial for all those people who fought to keep the pride of Ethiopia. The sacrifices they paid are beyond what we can imagine. It is a part of history that not only made Ethiopians but the whole African continent proud,” said Abate.
1000 female actresses and 4000 male actors are expected to participate in the film, Adwa. “We have a clear, set plan on how to finance the project. We have already made sponsorship deals with some companies. I am not at liberty to say who they are, but it is guaranteed that we will have the budget,” said Samuel Bekele, PR Head at MASA Communication and Events.
As big as the project is, it is bound to exceed the current set budget of 35 million birr, but the production company as well as all of those involved seem to take to the saying, “Where there is a will there is a way”. Each of the scenes of the film will have two takes, one in English and one in Amharic; this will be done because the plan is to premier the film in different countries, which have been selected, at the same time.
Ethiopia lost around 5,000 people in the battle of Adwa. After the victory, Ethiopia acquired a special importance in the eyes of Africans as the only independent African country (apart from Liberia). Ethiopia became the emblem of African pride and resistance: it brought prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of the European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African inferiority.