Cinema of Ethiopia

The Cinema of Ethiopia and the film industry in general is a relatively recent phenomenon in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian film industry is growing, but faces many problems that have prevented it from fully flourishing.[1] Historically live stage theater enjoyed more popularity in Ethiopia, creating a handful of relatively successful stage actors.[1]

Cinema of Ethiopia
No. of screens273 (2016)
Main distributorsZefmesh Grandmall
Sebastobol Production
Produced feature films (2018)


The cinema of Ethiopia was introduced in 1898, three years after the first world film was projected on 25 December 1895. However the growth rate was critically declined as a result of ongoing sociopolitical instability. Over decades, the Ethiopian film industry was associated with cultural, religious and national background under pressure of its leaders, advanced historical and documentary films.

Berhanou Abebbé wrote in 2003 article Annales d'Ethiopie that a Frenchman introduced the first cinematic artifacts in Ethiopia in 1898, sold to Italian minister Federico Ciccodicola [it]. Ciccodicola then offered to Emperor Menelik II as a gift. According to historians Berhanou and Richard Pankhurst books before the first public film screening occurred in (1909–1910), the Majesty watched several films over decades. In 1923, the first cinema house was completed and built by Ethiopians. Berhanou noted that the first cinema house called Pate was owned by MM. Baicovich from 1909 to 1910. During the first phase of cinema introduction, people were unsatisfactory to watch films. Berhanou quoted the French historian Merab, in his Impressions d'Ethiopie (1922), "people apparently didn't like to entertain themselves."

Pankhurst, a distinguished historian published his book Economic History of Ethiopia in 1968, further elaborated that the Armenians were attempted to project by 1909–10, but only attracted by temporary interest and soon abandoned it. Some natives misunderstandingly compared cinema to "devil work". Propelled by objection to the first house opened in 1923, the native labelled the cinema "Ye Seytan Bet" ("devil's house"). Chris Prouty noted that Ethiopia and Eritrea as the only country in Africa indifferent to foreign films. The first Ethiopian film au de Menilek was released on 1909 directed by Charles Martel. The first short film is 16mm black-and-white film, produced on the occasion of Empress Zewditu's coronation day in 1917. In addition, the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie was filmed.

Little was known before internationally grossed films revived in 1990s. Most of renowned figures responsible for recognition of Ethiopian films internationally are Haile Gerima, Salem Mekuria, Yemane Demissie, and Teshome Gabriel.[2]

In 2000s, Ethiopian films exceptionally outgrown and implemented Amharic language. However with distribution to DVD, some filmmakers worried about piracy. Much of country's film production takes place in Addis Ababa.[3]

Notable figuresEdit




Notable filmsEdit

Domestically successful filmsEdit

  • Taza (ታዛ)
  • Beza (ቤዛ)
  • Yewendoch Guday (የወንዶች ጉዳይ)
  • Rebuni (ረቡኒ)
  • Kerbie (ከርቤ)

Internationally successful filmsEdit

Major eventsEdit


  • Addis International Film Festival - This festival is held annually in Addis Ababa, and seeks to provide a platform for both amateur and professional filmmakers.
  • Ethiopian International Film Festival - annually held in Addis Ababa during which many Ethiopian film makers get to showcase their work and awards are handed to the best films as voted by the judges. This festival started in 2005.


  • Gumma Film Awards - The most known and prestigious award in the Ethiopian film industry. Held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia annually, this award show started in 2014 and is the first film award show to be broadcast live on some television channels.

Cinema-related organizationsEdit

Film schoolsEdit

  • Blue Nile Film and Television Academy
  • Yofthahe Nigussie School of Theatrical Arts
  • Addis Ababa University Visual and Performing Arts


  1. ^ a b Mulat, Addisalem. "Ethiopia: Actress Stepping Up the Ladder of Success". All Africa.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Cine-Ethiopia: The History and Politics of Film in the Horn of Africa. Michigan State University Press. 2018. doi:10.14321/j.ctv1fxmf1.11. ISBN 978-1-61186-292-8.
  3. ^ "ETHIOPIAN CINEMA… (In the Entertainment industry. History of Ethiopian Cinema)". Retrieved 2021-06-23.