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

Cinema of Ethiopia
No. of screens273 (2016)
Main distributorsZefmesh Grandmall
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 25 December 1895 in Paris. 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 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 Prince 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. ^ "Addis International Film Festival | Human Rights Film Network". Retrieved 2022-07-05.