At the end of last year Eritrea’s short film got gold at the IndieFEST. The short film climbed on the ladder of accomplishments and has now reserved a spot at the “Best Shorts Competition” and won awards at the Depth of Field International Film Festival (DOFIFF) in seven categories: Award of Exceptional Merit, Award of Exceptional Merit for Original Score and Award of Excellence in cinematography, script writing, directing, editing and best lead acting.
The writer and director of this multiple- award-winning short film is non-other than the famous filmmaker in the Eritrean film industry, Efriem Kahsay, aka Wedi Quada. Efriem refers to this moment as “encouraging”. “The world will from now on begin to see wonders of young Eritrean filmmakers and artists,” he said. As a tribute to the film’s success Eritrea Profile recaps an interview the filmmaker gave to Q&A when Bad News claimed its first gold at the IndieFEST.
- Congratulations on your win!
Thank you! Congratulations to us all. This is a trophy for the nation.
- It is indeed. How has the people’s reaction been since the news broke out?
Huge! It has been some humbling couple of weeks for me and the team involved in the making of our short film, ‘The Bad News’. Everyone is proud of the nomination and local filmmakers as well.
- Tell me, please, about this specific work. What was the inspiration for the film and what is it about?
It started as a poem that I wrote in 2003. I later on posted it on my social media page and had a number of comments that inspired me to transform it to a short film. It is about a man who is about to commit suicide but he doesn’t want to bother anyone. So, he bought his own casket, paid for his burial ground and even bought a bouquet of flowers for his funeral. He was also a type that would normally buy lottery tickets. He bought one as his last souvenir.
He saw the prize money of 500,000 and didn’t bother even to look. But as lady luck works in mysterious ways, when he hanged himself and people rushed to help they noticed that he had actually won the lottery.
- Let’s speak on the technical aspect now. In these 35 minutes you tell a life story of a man who tried to beat life in every aspect but never had anything good happen to him till he won the half of a million he didn’t have a chance to get the prize money. This man raises a philosophical approach related to death as well. He dies gloriously after personally setting his own funeral before he even died. How did you manage to tell the story in 35 minutes and still keep the depth of it, using obviously limited resources?
We first filmed it to last one hour and a half. But then the idea of entering a competition had us work on the film all over again. The requirement for the IndieFEST Short Film Awards and most of the prestigious film awards is 30 minutes minimum and almost one hour maximum. Our aim was to present our film according to known standards. Film making is all about team work; so if I am to answer how we maintained the depth of the story in that amount of time and our limited resources, I would say, it needed the creativity, talent and goodwill of everyone involved.
- What made you think that the movie was worth a shot for IndieFEST?
I would say the urge of having recognition for our work. Normally our products are meant for our local audience. Trying to enter the competition with this specific short film meant testing ourselves in a bid to learn what the international public thinks of our technics and our stories. Filmmaking is a language that needs no translations. Filmmakers, actors, editors and others know what cinematic language a movie uses just by looking at one. So I can say that we have been very eager to have our movies read and understood by professionals like us to ultimately know where we, Eritrean filmmakers, stand. We keep in touch with films from around the globe. We follow international awards starting from BAFTA to ACADEMY awards and more. After the film was made, we knew, at least we hoped, that our film too was well made and, therefore, capable of communicating with the world through the cinematic language filmmakers use worldwide. That being said, our main goal was to simply test ourselves.
- Did you expect to win first prize?
I didn’t. The IndieFEST is competitive. I knew our work was good but we kept our hopes just for finals and semifinals. When on November 7th the movie got nominated I stared at my computer’s screen for a long time in silence. And for more than two hours I didn’t share the news. I was not in disbelief but I guess I was feeling joy because the award means a lot. It means more to other filmmakers than what it means to me. It means more to my students than it means to me, and it means more to the Eritrean people as well.
- Yes, in that perspective, what does this award mean to you and your colleagues?
Like I said this was a test for us. We wanted to know what we are capable of and now we know.
This means a lot to my colleagues, but it also means much more to my student and professionals in the field. This is a chance for us to boost our energy for further creativity. It was definitely a confidence booster. Can’t wait to see what will come out of our young aspiring filmmakers. The film is now in the finals in The Depth of Field International Film Competition along with three other movies: ‘Another Yesterday’ from the USA, ‘Chasm’ of the UK, and ‘Starting at the Sea’ of Spain. And yet again we aim to further learn about our aptitudes in terms of filmmaking.
- Well, good luck. If you were to give credit to anyone for this glory who would it be?
Everyone involved in the making of the film. Everyone. And also Eritreans abroad who submitted the film on our behalf and extended a helping hand when needed. The glory is for all.
- Thank you and, again, congratulations.