Moving Image Fund Grants Directory

LEF New England launched the Moving Image Fund (MIF) in 2002 to support independent film and video artists creating new work.Through MIF, LEF provides funding across all phases of production, supporting films from the early risk-taking stage, through a film's completion.

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In Production
Eric Gottesman & Daniel Debebe Negatu
Eric Gottesman & Meskerem Girma
Grant Awarded
$5,000 - 2015
Type of Film
Official Website
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Contact Information

Film Synopsis

Set in Ethiopia and Eritrea in the early 1980s, this project explores celebrated Ethiopian author Baalu Girma and his revolutionary novel OROMAYE. Girma, the chief propagandist in the Ethiopian Ministry of Information of the communist “Derg” government, sat at his desk all day concocting government campaigns to win the hearts and minds of Ethiopians (including Ethiopian citizens of the rebellious region, and later nation, of Eritrea). At night, Girma returned home to his family and stayed up late, writing and smoking at the family’s kitchen table by one bare bulb, or roaming the streets of Addis Ababa looking for inspiring characters.

In 1983, fed up with the Derg’s unwillingness to create more open political and economic policy, Girma secretly wrote OROMAYE, his sixth and final novel. It portrayed a government official, Tsegaye, who embarks upon a propaganda campaign to win over the Eritrean resistance. Instead of succeeding with the campaign, Tsegaye falls in love with one of the beautiful rebels, Fiyameta. He forsakes his fiancée and his country for this seductress and criticizes characters in the book who bore a too-close resemblance to the real life Derg ministers. 

When it was released in late 1983, it was quickly removed from the shelves of bookstores. Though Girma expertly guided the publication of the book through the government censorship offices, it was quickly seen as a veiled critique of the brutal regime for which he worked. Seven months after publishing the book in 1984, Girma left home one afternoon and never returned.  Most believe he was assassinated.  No one knows for sure.

In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Republican Democratic Front, with the help of the real-life Eritrean rebel movement portrayed in Oromaye, overthrew the Derg and called for a more representative and transparent government. But, as Girma knew well, political slogans hover somewhere in the territory between the fictional and the real. Twenty years later, the EPRDF is still in power and has arrested the second highest number of journalists of any country in the world. The country that has arrested the most journalists is next door: Eritrea, also formerly part of the Derg regime.

OROMAYE will revisit the life and fiction of Baalu Girma, and will resurrect the story of the novel that helped inspire a revolution. Through personal accounts from those who knew Girma, reenactments of his novel with contemporary Ethiopian actors, and interviews with these actors, in and out of character, OROMAYE seeks to explore the state of creative expression in Ethiopia today. 

About the Director(s)

Eric Gottesman - Writer/Co-director/Producer
Eric Gottesman is an artist, filmmaker and organizer. Central to his practice is collaboration. He uses photography, writing and film as vehicles to engage others in conversation and critical thought about the social structures that surround them, and him. He works slowly, often spending a long time in a community, and exhibits work locally first, to an audience determined by the co-creators of the work. Gottesman studied politics and economics and, later, art. He has earned a Fulbright Fellowship as well as awards from the Magnum Foundation, Artadia, the Aaron Siskind Foundation, apexart, the Open Society Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His work is in various collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His first book, Sudden Flowers, set in Ethiopia, will be released in 2014.

Daniel Debebe Negatu - Co-director
I have had the opportunity to generate content for clients like UNICEF, African Union, MTV-Staying Alive and Nike. My personal work has also received recognition from educational institutes and film festivals including Duke University – Center for Documentary studies, Harvard University, New York University-Tisch, the Imagine Institute in Burkina Faso and the Rotterdam International Film festival. I’ve also garnered minimal experience in actual “film” by working on a super 16mm retrospective film on Robert Gardner.

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