SELEDA Ethiopia
Art work by Assegid Gessesse
December 13 2019
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Homes Apart...

"Homes Apart" a film by Assegid Gessesse -
A review by Lucy Gebre-Egziabher

A documentary film, besides the obvious purpose of documenting actuality, should present a given subject matter with the ultimate objective of not only informing the viewer but also making the viewer reflect. This is what Assegid Gessesse did with his film "Homes Apart". A 15 minutes short film, that documents the notion or perception of home expressed by Ethiopians... a first generation immigrant population.

Composed of a series of interviews with Ethiopians in the Diaspora, more specifically in the Toronto area, the film captures the essence of a dilemma - a dilemma of a people who have migrated for various reasons, but mostly find themselves in a new environment that some dare call home, while others refer to it as a temporary residence.

The film starts with the sound of a man whistling a tune, an Ethiopian melancholic melody, that is so familiar... so haunting. Images of family pictures appear one after the other when we hear the voice over of a woman composing a letter to her mother back home. The letter exposes the woman's emotions: missing family, missing home, longing for home, yet fear of returning.

The interviews that are conducted throughout the film do not feel like interviews, but rather a series of confessionals - individuals who have agreed to let us take a look inside their beings to witness the inner struggle they all share when it comes to defining HOME. Assimilation, displacement, memories, fantasies of or notions of home, belonging, confusion, resistance, identity... identity... our children's identity... are words that are heard in the subtext of their deliberation. "I don't know if that Ethiopia still exists" says one of the women interviewed as she shares the picture she has constructed in her head of Ethiopia. "They must go back home" says a young father expressing his wish of raising his children back home.

The filmmaker's craft of subtly juxtaposing the voice over of these testimonials with images that epitomizes the sense of community "mahber gatherings", coffee ceremony, kids birthdays, leaves the viewer probing self about the notion of HOME... a reality lived or a fantasy constructed?

In answering what seemed to be the inevitable question "where would you want to be buried?" the responses varied from "what does it really matter?"; to "where ever my father is buried"; "where my family and friends are... it doesn't have to be in my place of origin."

"Homes Apart" is an important film for Ethiopians and definitely has its place in Ethiopian history in that it is the first film that documents the Ethiopian Diasporic experience. It is a film that every Ethiopian living in the Diaspora will relate to and appreciate.

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