Three talented young Ethiopian Filmmakers just finished a once-in a-lifetime experience when they spent a week in Monte Carlo and at the Cannes Film Festival, attending film screenings and premieres, participating in meetings, workshops, and seminars, and being feted at dinners and parties, and presenting their own work. Filmmakers Henok Mebratu, Olisarali Olibui and Yidnekachew Shumete, are participants of an educational program sponsored by The International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) and the Ethiopian Film Initiative (EFI). All three were chosen after a rigorous competition between fellow Ethiopian filmmakers vying for a chance to participate in this program.
Their experience began in Monte Carlo, the home base of the IEFTA, when they attended a Benefit Dinner in their honor at the beautiful Villa Nocturne hosted by IEFTA President Marco Orsini. Funders and supporters of the IEFTA and EFI program were on hand as well as members of the international press and film industry who came in from Cannes for the event and to meet the filmmakers. Actor Billy Zane (“Titanic”) flew in from the US to support the event and to serve as mentor for the filmmakers. Marco Orsini, President of the IEFTA announced that Mr. Zane has joined the organization’s Advisory Board. He also announced that in addition to the focus on Ethiopia (begun in 2008) and its filmmaking community, the IEFTA would also be broadening its educational outreach and support to include young emerging talent from other African nations.
The next day was spent in workshops, and meetings preparing the three for theirtrip to the Festival in Cannes where they were to meet the industry. Veteran Producer Mitch Levine guided them through discussions, trial pitching sessions and filmmaking workshops. That evening at CREM in Monte Carlo, the filmmakers screened their short films, to the public, program supporters, and local Monaco media. Following the screenings Billy Zane led the three in a discussion of their work, their film-making vision and the passion for their art, and commitment to the advancement of Ethiopia’s – and Africa’s – film-making community.
On to Cannes and the 65th Cannes Film Festival where the three were immersed in the industry. From morning to night they traversed the Festival, guided by Mitch Levine, meeting and speaking with industry professionals such as Co-Director of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival Cameron Bailey and his team of programmers specializing in Africa; Film Fund representatives from France and Norway whose funding programs specifically benefit the filmmakers’ region; Film Commissioners and Film Festival directors and programmers from Scandinavia, Europe, India, Canada, US and elsewhere to speak about co-production opportunities as well as presenting their work to the public; distributors and acquisition executives who explained what they were looking for from the global marketplace to bring to their countries and audiences; public relations and marketing executives, as well as journalists and many many others. They had numerous opportunities of networking and attending receptions – where the real work of the festival is done – and talked, met and mingled with the world’s film industry.