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The first film entitled “Horse In Motion” by Eadweard Muybridge was made in 1878. He wanted to scientifically answer a popularly debated question during that era – are all four of a horse’s hooves ever off the ground at the same time while the horse is galloping?  Muybridge’s time-motion photography proved they indeed were, and the idea of motion photography was born.
After that came the first home movie ever made, “Roundhay Garden Scene” in 1888. This film is thought to be the oldest surviving film on record. The Roundhay Garden Scene was directed by the French inventor, Louis Le Prince and features some members of Le Prince’s family playfully walking around a garden. The film lasts about two seconds.
As the trend got popular a series of films that are very short and soundless were made by different film companies but the first film made for projection came in 1895. This particular film showed workers leaving the Lumiere Factory located in Lyon, France. The idea of movies for mass people consumption is considered to be the invention of Auguste and Louis Lumiere.
The Lumiere Brothers held a private screening of projected movies on March 22, 1895 in Paris. This test screening was a success.
Cinema was introduced in Ethiopia only after three years the Lumiere brothers screened their film in Paris. Unfortunately, even though Ethiopian cinema history started early, the film industry in the country has failed to progress in the proper manner.
The Ethiopian film industry started to boom in the last ten years, although when we say boom it sadly has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the storylines or the way the films are made, but just that there are many of them being made every now and then.
Many comment that new and innovative techniques are being used in ‘the Ethiopian film industry’ but I confidently can say that majority of the films simply hold a commodity status and they are not worth even mentioning.
The film industry in this country is a person with a digital camera standing in front of an actor who clearly has never set foot in an acting school and without any experience attempting to act a scene from a poorly written script. For that reason I will say that the film industry is not actually on an infant stage, it is non-existent.
We are currently mass producing incompetent film makers, actors and other people involved in film making and it is dragging the craft six feet under as they say.
It is very obvious that the mass produced self-acclaimed film makers are in the business of putting out baloney, which the audience takes part in by paying good money to watch it; encouraging the makers to produce more garbage.
I am no professional film critic, but I believe my years of watching more films than I probably should have has allowed me to identify what’s good and what is a complete waste of time, and a complete waste of time seems to be what most local films released are going for as an achievement.
The films that came out, usually focus on some sort of common love story; a guy falling in love with a woman completely out of his league, almost always attired in slinky body hugging short dress exposing all her ‘assets’. Watch the first 15 minutes of the film and you can accurately guess how it is going to end.
If it is not a cheap love story, it is an annoyingly exaggerated tragic story. The characters who are supposed to make you feel their pain and make you sad instead become a pain.
As they say though, a coin has two sides and in this case the films made in Ethiopia are not all horrible. There are few films that show time, intellect, talent and creativity has been invested on them. These films carryout an interesting strong story filled with humor and wit along with twists that captures audiences. The problem is such films are very few and we don’t seem to demand more of them.
Instead we just settle for films where the writer, producer, director and the main character are done by the same person. It is just a way of making easy money, self-promotion and 15 minutes of fame.
It really doesn’t take that fancy equipment to make a reasonably good film. It just only takes using a tiny bit of your imagination, your mind and effort to produce a film with an acceptable standard.
It is the lack of passion and respect that is killing the art of film making in Ethiopia. There are so many stories that could be told, and if told the right way would be as good as all those multi-million dollar budgeted Oscar winning films.
I ask those who call themselves producers, directors, screen play writers and actors to live up to their name for God’s sake. Soon people are going to get tired of all these excuses and stop watching.   Give the industry its dignity back, try to challenge yourself. I understand you want to make money, but isn’t it very possible to make money without destroying one of the most important forms of art and embarrassing your people and yourself in the process?
Think about it.