Ethiopian Cinema: After Some Delay, 'Mefenkele Setoch' Opens in Addis Ababa
By Seble Teweldebirhan
Addis Ababa, July 21, 2011 (Ezega.com) - It is possible to imagine the legendary author Sibhat G/egziabher publishing another controversial book or may be giving an interview or writing an article for a newspaper on matters our society considers a taboo. Anyone who knows the man can imagine him doing crazy things like marrying a woman four times younger than him or refusing to live a life that is considered decent by Ethiopian standard. May be its possible to regard him as a philosopher and a living library who reads a lot and makes frank and realistic comments on almost every issue that he encounters. But Ethiopians will probably testify, against all the odds, that Sibhat is an honest man with integrity, a man who not only does what he feels right, but also live by his words.
Yet, last Sunday, this legendary and contentious man added another controversial personality to his profile. Sibhat acted in a new Film titled “Mefenkele Setoch” or ‘codetta of women’. The film, opened at Alem Cinema on Sunday afternoon; it is a production of Mebrek Film Production. The 1:35 hour long, piromatic comedy directed and produced by Michael L/seged, used around 300 actors. The producers at the opening announced that the film cost 700,000 birr and took six month to complete. In addition to Sibhat G/egziabher, comedians like Dereje Haile, Yohanes Tefera, Zerihune Asmamaw, Lily Worku and many others have taken part in the film.
The film has uncomplicated story from the outside. It is about a world, for a change, controlled by women. The actors are husbands who are abused, mistreated, disrespected, and most importantly, considered incapable by their wives. The movie shows a woman leader for Ethiopia and an economy and culture controlled by women. The Ethiopian government even has a Men Affairs Minister that works to ensure equality for men. To the extent that seemed cruel and unreasonable, the wives were insensitive to their husbands. Though all the husbands did what is required of them like cooking, cleaning, taking care of the baby, and addressing social responsibilities of the couples, this did not get them any mercy from their wives. Finally, tired of being pushed around, the men decided to revolt against women. The revolution, at the end, turns them to gorilla fighters to stand for the rights of men.
Sibhat acted as a person who gives advice for the husbands whenever their wives make their life a living hell. Though the movie did not make it clear, it seems that Sibhat’s character is a witch doctor. Frankly, he did not give any substantive advice that solved the pain of the men. Every time they go to him for advice, he tells them things that did not make any sense and even to get out of the house. Probably for the first time in Ethiopian film history, Sibhat, being him, did not hesitate to use the F word that were censored in the cinema.
The movie seems a pure comedy that tries to put men in women’s shoe in a society. Anyone at the beginning might have an impression that Sibhat, being a legend and most respectable figure of the country, was wrong to be part of such a silly comedy. However, the real story comes out as the movie winds down. Watching closely, it is easy to realize that the movie is not actually talking about the relationship of men and women.
It tells a story of a society mistreated to the extent unbearable and with people who tried every peaceful way possible to end violence. Clearly, the men were the society while the women were the government. Sibhat’s character probably represented the part of the society that claims to know and understand the entire problems of the country but does not have any significant solution to solve it. The audience at the opening assumed Sibhat agreed to do the part with this understanding. The political implication did not go unnoticed by government officials. The movie that was meant to be open a couple of months back was delayed after the placard was already posted and people, especially those excited to see Sibhat on a movie, have been waiting for the opening.
At the opening ceremony, the host Abraham explained the delay for the opening. “This film has no political, religious or any other inference intended by the producers. It is a comedy that tries to address the adversity of women in a society. However, it has faced many problems from people who claimed it has other connotation.”
The intention of the producers was to open the film in all cinema halls in Addis Ababa and in regional towns. However, the Cinema halls administered by the Addis Ababa Cinema Halls Administration refused to open the film at the 11th hour. Ezega.com was told by the producers that the Cinema halls refused to screen the film claiming they received a letter from the administration instructing them not to do so.
Seble Teweldebirhan is Addis Ababa based Reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.