Boosting the Ethiopian film industry

The full-length feature film Lamb has been directed by the Ethiopian filmmaker Yared Zakele. The movie retraces the story of a young boy who becomes emotionally attached to a ewe after the death of his mother. The film has been entirely shot in Ethiopia, with local actors and a technical team to be sourced locally. The action aims at strengthening the cinema industry and the skills of professionals working in this sector in Ethiopia.

The movie has been presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, in official competition at "Un certain regard" selection.

Ethiopia is not a country known for its burgeoning film scene. Even the capital city, Addis Ababa, only boasts 20 cinemas. It's also not an easy place to make a movie, but that didn't stop Yared Zeleke. “Film is hard no matter where you are, but in a place like Ethiopia, what's difficult becomes almost impossible,” admits Zeleke. “There are so many difficulties facing young filmmakers in Ethiopia today. There aren't proper support systems in the country. The movie could not be produced without ACPCultures+. Lamb opened the minds and hearts of all Ethiopians to nurture real storytelling and cinema in this country. As the film was selected in Cannes and travelled in more than 120 festivals, the local authorities are now aware that the film industry can contribute to the development of the country and promote Ethiopia in the world” he adds.

The movie unveils a little piece of heaven in the Horn of Africa.  Ethiopia’s image has been tarnished and the country is sadly ingrained in the world’s collective memory as connected to famine. “Lamb speaks of the country delicately and subtly – avoiding clichés – so as to enable a nuanced understanding of its complexities and contradictions. It is not all misery at all. Life can be a struggle, but it is also filled with love, laughter and humour, like anywhere else”, Ghanaian co-producer Ama Ampadu explains.

“This film is an important step in order to build a strong cinema and audio-visual sector in Ethiopia. I set up a company in Ethiopia mainly to work on Yared’s film but also to work with local young people. We got young professionals involved from the very beginning: actors, technicians and line producers. I would state that now Ethiopia is about to be ready to receive the attention of more international producers. The Ethiopian authorities realised the importance of the audio-visual sector for the country. The Ministry of Culture understood the importance that images shown by a movie have in order to promote Ethiopian culture on a large scale. The authorities will be enthusiastic to fund and help the production of new films”, says Ama.

The film won several awards since its première at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015: Best Film at the Milan Film Festival, Best Film at the African Film Festival in Verona, Best Foreign Film at the 2016 Key West Film Festival, beside being presented in major A festivals, all over the world: Karlovy Vary, Busan, BFI London, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Rotterdam, Goteborg, Beijing, International Images Film Festival for Women in Zimbawe, FESPACO, Carthage and many others.

The presence in Cannes has been capital for the success of the film. The producers and the sales agent, Film Distribution, organised 2 projections at the Film Market to present the film to potential buyers. The two young protagonists came to Cannes and they participated with the director to all the promotion presentation: photocall, press interviews. It was the first time they were outside Ethiopia.

Finally, Lamb has been sold and released in more than 50 countries. Only in France, the movie attracted more than 30.000 spectators and has been distributed with almost 100 copies.


Lamb has been picked up by the French Ministry of Education in its programme “College to cinema”. In this framework, the movie will be shown to French pupils with a pedagogical dossier about Ethiopia.

The film integrates several development, environmental and gender problems:

  • The issue of gender equality and women's access to education is identified by the main female role, Tsion, who will eventually leave her family to go to Addis Ababa University. She wishes to study development issues;
  • The issue of children's rights is of course at the heart of the film through the fate of its main character, Ephraim, entrusted by his father to distant relatives and in need of adaptation in this new family;
  • The preservation of the environment, the issue of drought and famine are daily problems for this family of peasants who encounter difficulties cultivating their land and are confronted with the illness of their little girl who suffers from malnutrition.


The impact on the country has been huge. Through the film, hundreds of young actors have been trained during the acting workshops. A 28-years old Ethiopian actor living in London and working for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Beru Tessema, has trained the Ethiopian actors for 7 weeks.

Furthermore, the producers trained light and sound technicians, production assistants, costumes assistants and line producers, all coming from Ethiopia. “We worked with a minimum number of European technicians (only 9 during the shooting)”, says Laurent Lavolé, the French co-producer. “Each European technician assured a training role in collaboration with Ethiopian staff. We choose to double several key posts, so the responsibilities have been shared among European and local technicians: director assistant, set design and costumes. All these professionals now know how to manage an international feature film”.

“We contributed to the growth of Ethiopian economy by spending almost 600.000€ in the country, not only on the actors and technicians, but also on hotels, travels and catering”, continues Lavsolé. “It was also the first time that a film received the sponsorship from Ethiopia Airlines. All the international and local tickets for the cast were for free. We also did not pay for the transportation of equipment back and forth to Europe, and within the country. We probably would not have delivered the film on time without this generous support”.

“The movie literally changed the lives of dozens of people that participated to its realisation”, Yared Zeleké adds.

One of the recent major impacts was the discovery of the young actress Kidist Siyum, now 18 years old, who played Tsion in Lamb. Before that, Kidist had never acted or been in front of a camera. Her remarkable performance in the film has led to a role in the new Swiss production Fortuna, feature length fiction directed by Germinal Roux, and produced by Ruth Waldburger, one of the leading Swiss producers.

Making-off of the movie

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December 14, 2016
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