The Cinema of Ethiopia and the film industry in general are relatively recent phenomena 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] Ethiopian films began modernizing in the 2000s, implementing Amharic, but due to wide home video and DVD distribution, they are often frustrated by copyright infringement in the presence of piracy. This was reduced in the early 2010s with the intervention of the government and the imposition of policy. Despite recent developments, the Ethiopian film industry continues to lack quality compared to modern world cinema and has a low budget amateurish style.[citation needed]

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


The cinema of Ethiopia was introduced in 1897,[2] two years after the first world film was projected on December 25, 1895, in Paris. However, the growth rate critically declined as a result of ongoing sociopolitical instability. Over decades, the Ethiopian film industry has been associated with cultural, religious, and national backgrounds and, under the pressure of its leaders, advanced historical and documentary films.

Berhanou Abebbé wrote in the 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 it to Emperor Menelik II as a gift. According to historians Berhanou and Richard Pankhurst, 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 also noted that the first cinema house was called Pate; and it was owned by MM. Baicovich, which was functional 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 1916. In addition, the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie was filmed. There was also produced limited feature films. In 1978, the Ethiopian Film Center to encourage film production, which was later replaced by Ethiopian Film Corporation in accordance with Decree No. 306/1986. It was produced 27 documentaries; two of whom are notable titled BehiywetZuria and Aster. However with the regime of Derg caused a split of sector with private investment.[3]

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.[4] In 1993, the Ethiopian Filmmakers Association (EFIMA) was launched with objective of boosting the film growth in Ethiopia. At the time, the organization only have 27 founding members who were employees of the Ethiopian Film Corporation, the only public enterprise representing the film industry. The organization grew with 150 members representing five regions of the country. It has been called the pioneer association to bear filmmakers in Ethiopia.[3]

In 2000s, Ethiopian films exceptionally outgrown and implemented Amharic language. However, with distribution to DVD, some filmmakers worried about piracy.[5] According to Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau, there was an increase of production into from 10 to 112 films in 2005–2012. In 2013, the Ethiopian government planned with stakeholders of various working sectors to draft a new film policy. These include imposing license, expanding film schools, taxations, increasing equipments, and helping filmmakers to encourage production in culturally and diversify background. However scholars such as Aboneh Ashagrie and Alessandro Jedlowski argued that the Ethiopian films may never satisfied to international premiere because of filmmaking preference in amateurish style and differ from foreign norms. There are also internationally grossed films in particular; Difret (2014) and Price of Love (2015) became the most acclaimed film whereas Rebuni (2015) and Yewendoch Guday (2007) were domestically successful films.[6]

Notable figures





Notable films

For a more comprehensive list, see List of Ethiopian films.

Domestically successful films

Internationally successful films

Major events



Cinema-related organizations

Film schools

Notable movie theatres


  1. ^ a b Mulat, Addisalem. "Ethiopia: Actress Stepping Up the Ladder of Success". All Africa. Archived from the original on July 31, 2017.
  2. ^ Ashagrie, Aboneh (2017). "The Ethiopian International Film Festival: The 7th Edition, 26 November - 2 December 2012". Journal of Cultural and Religious Studies. 5 (6). ISSN 2328-2177.
  3. ^ a b Organization, World Intellectual Property (2016-03-31). National Studies on Assessing the Economic Contribution of the Copyright-Based Industries - Series no. 9. WIPO. ISBN 978-92-805-2745-2.
  4. ^ 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. JSTOR 10.14321/j.ctv1fxmf1. S2CID 202316842.
  5. ^ "ETHIOPIAN CINEMA… (In the Entertainment industry. History of Ethiopian Cinema)". Retrieved 2021-06-23.
  6. ^ Jedlowski, Alessandro (2015). "Screening Ethiopia: A preliminary study of the history and contemporary developments of film production in Ethiopia". Journal of African Cinemas. 7 (2): 169–185. doi:10.1386/jac.7.2.169_1. ISSN 1754-9221.
  7. ^ "Abraham Haile Biru | Camera and Electrical Department, Cinematographer, Producer". IMDb. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  8. ^ "Henok Mebratu | Producer, Director, Editor". IMDb. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  9. ^ "Azmari: An Ethiopian Musician". Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  10. ^ "Sewmehon Yismaw | Director, Cinematographer, Producer". IMDb. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  11. ^ Tewodros, Rebecca (2023-04-15). "THRILLING CREATIVITY TO THE FINEST | The Reporter | Latest Ethiopian News Today". Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  12. ^ "sewmehon-films". Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  13. ^ "Yismaw, Sewmehon | African Film Festival, Inc". Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  14. ^ Frankel, Davey; Lakew, Rasselas, Atletu (Biography, Drama), Rasselas Lakew, Dag Malmberg, Ruta Gedmintas, AV Patchbay, El Atleta, Instinctive Film, retrieved 2023-09-04
  15. ^ A Fool God (2019) - IMDb, retrieved 2023-09-04
  16. ^ "The Bookmaker: An ancient craft in Ethiopia". Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  17. ^ Beshir, Jessica (2021-09-03), Faya Dayi (Documentary, Drama), D. J. Express, Kawa Sherif, Salih Sigirci, Doha Film Institute, Flies Collective, Ford Foundation - Just Films, retrieved 2023-08-25
  18. ^ "Faya dayi". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  19. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2022-06-20). "Faya Dayi review – the ups and downs of khat's zonked-out bliss". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  20. ^ "Addis International Film Festival | Human Rights Film Network". Retrieved 2022-07-05.

Further reading