Synopsis

When I was a 4-year old kid in Addis-Ababa listening to my father’s radio I heard a singer who mesmerized me. In an unknowing visceral response, Asnaketch Worku took root in my soul. Decades later it was an almost pre-destined privilege to direct a documentary on this extraordinary artist who is as much a cultural icon to Ethiopians as Billie Holiday is to Americans and Edith Piaf to the French. Asnaketch lived her life on the edge of her artistry, over the edge of her passions. But to separate Asnaketch from the social and political climate of conservative Ethiopia, particularly in 50’s and 60’s was impossible. Artists in that time were looked down upon, called derogatorily, “Azmari”, which the church deemed as, “...those not going to heaven.” So this doc is as much about my country, my music, my culture as it is about this original being, Asnaketch, who is a substantive part of the fabric of Ethiopia, past and present.

Director's Statement

Although this film started as a dedication and biography of an artist I fell in love with when I was 4 years old, the project over the years became more of a historic documentary about the artistic legacy of the country I was born in, Ethiopia. Like many countries in the world, Ethiopia has never given their artists much relevance past their prime. Once they’ve retired and are out of the spot-light they die poor, forgotten and alone.

Aware with that reality, even though my background was portrait and editorial photography; I jumped to tackle to do Asnaketch’s documentary film the day I first met her at her two room house in Addis Ababa four years ago. I felt her exciting story needed to be told. Of course I didn’t know anything about directing, sound, nor camera operation. Once well confident with the craft however, I was faced with the issue of no equipment, lack of rental houses, local producers, or skilled production individuals (sound, grip, camera operators), in the country. So I had to import all equipment and train a film crew in order to complete the production over the years.

With this film what I’ve come to realize is not only that I’ve had the privilege to tell Asnaketch’s powerful and passionate life story but also the chance to acknowledge her colleagues and fellow artists before and during her time that were the integral part of creating the beginning of theater, music and cinema in now modern Ethiopia.

But with that came another challenge: Ethiopia does not have the resources to properly archive historical film footage. So finding archival footage of past artists was close to impossible. The only limited resource that exists is from the state owned television: Ethiopian Television. But the bureaucracy made it close to impossible.

I feel this documentary film has historical value to anyone interested in understanding the music and theater tradition of Ethiopia through the eyes of an astounding personality such as Asnaketch Worku.

Being a witness to the last four years of her life and documenting her hopes and courage was a great privilege I will always cherish. Knowing that her story will be heard and seen through this documentary film to audiences all over the world was her very last dying wish.

Crew

DIRECTOR

Rachel Samuel

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Adam Overton

PRODUCERS

Rachel Samuel & Adam Overton

EDITOR

Yemane I. Demissie

Photos

Screenings

FESPACO

http://www.fespaco-bf.net/
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
February 28-March 8th, 2015

PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL

http://www.paff.org/films/asni-courage-passion-glamor-in-ethiopia/
RAVE CINEMA, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw
420 Marlton ave, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Sunday, February 8th @ 6:40pm; Friday, February 13, @5:55pm

HILTON ADDIS

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia66
Thursday, February 5th, 2015 @ 5:30pm

FILM AFRICA FILM FESTIVAL

London, England

AFRICAN WORLD FILM FESTIVAL

St. Louis, Missouri

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY'S INSTITUE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN AFFAIRS AND AFRICAN STUDIES PROGRAM

New York, NY

NATIONAL THEATRE OF ETHIOPIA

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Contact

Email Address

info@asnithemovie.com

Phone

+1 323 445 5771 (USA)
+251 911 006 119 (ETH)