African Fixer

Ethiopia – An African Zion Filming Location

August 25, 2023

Ethiopians are one of the world’s ancient races and have witnessed ongoing transformation of the more than eighty tribes that migrated to ‘the horn of Africa’ over the centuries.

At the epicenter of a geological formation known as the ‘ Gondwanaland’, the Ethiopian landscape is one of deep gorges, the Blue Nile flowing through the lush Rift Valley and jagged mountains rising 4,000 meters above the Red Sea. In the southeastern lowlands, active volcanic floors have produced sulfur fields and the burnt landscape of the Hadar Caves; this is the archeological site where Lucy, the famous 3-million year old skeleton of the first hominid ape, was discovered.

The age-old, awe-inspiring Simien Heights are also a geological marvel. Unusual tropical vegetation is protected by a natural fortress of giant lobelia plants and the endangered Walia Ibex, a sacred animal that is the only surviving species of its kind in the world. The Simien mountains are also home to the Gelada baboon, also on the verge of extinction, and the unique Red fox that is a cross-breed between a wolf and a fox.

Film Collaborations That Set The Record Straight

Contrary to the misconceived assertions of travel writers who labeled the Falashas the ‘lost tribe of Israel’, these black Jews are ancient settlers of the region of Gondar who arrived during the time of Moses with an expedition of the Egyptian army. In recent years, a number of film collaborations between Ethiopian, Israeli and European producers have set the record straight.

  • The 2005 film ‘Love and Become’ tells the story of how the Falasha were recognised by Israel as authentic Jews in 1980 and secretly taken to Israel.
  • In 2008, ‘Teza’ followed the journey of an Ethiopian intellectual who had been taken to Israel as a small child and returned to his native country to join the socialist movement that ended the repressive communist regime
  • ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ in 2019 revealed how a team of Israeli Mossad agents managed to transfer one thousand Falasha Jews from Ethiopia without the government suspecting anything.

In these films, the Falasha village locations show how living ties to the ancient past are kept alive in Ethiopia.

Though the Gondar region is not as spectacular a filming location as other parts of the country, figurines of baked clay used to tell the story of King Solomon and The Queen of Sheba- from whom the Ethiopian imperial dynasty sprang- are set against obelisks with Sabean inscriptions dating back to 1,000 B.C. This makes for a unique and intriguing film set that was featured in the 1984 T.V series ‘Africa’.

As well as setting the record straight about the Falasha Jews, these film collaborations also debunked the Western myth about Ethiopia being a land of poverty, famine and drought. Today Ethiopia is one of the most advanced countries in Africa, a key organizer of the annual Tour d’Afrique Cycling event and the only country in Africa that boasts 53 Olympic medalists.

Diverse Tribes In Danger Of Displacement

Due to the ongoing conflict between the separatist region of Eritrea and the Ethiopian government, many of the other well-known tribes in the Ethiopian Highlands are in danger of displacement. The Mursi, Suri, Dizi and Me’en tribes have all flocked to the Omo National Park for safety. This gives film-makers a unique opportunity to capture diverse traditional influences reflected in the body paintings and religious art of these tribes.

Most people know that Ethiopia is the land where coffee was invented; for those with a stomach for hot curries, the lodge at Omo National Park provides a delightful experience for the senses.

Wherever you go in Ethiopia, the hospitality industry will treat you to a Coffee Ceremony that has all the makings of a religious rite. If you are a food and coffee lover, make time to fully immerse yourself in this truly mouth-watering experience.

The indigenous Hamar people who live along the edge of the Omo River are pastoralists and best-known for an annual bull-jumping contest. In this event, all the young bachelors who have come of age to marry compete for the affections of bachelorettes by seeing who can ride a bull the longest – the African version of a rodeo!

Combining an agricultural way of life with a fierce warrior spirit, many of the semi-nomadic tribes that depend upon the river or sustenance tell mind-blowing stories about a culture that has not been affected by global modernisation.

Ethiopia is the only African country that was never colonized and all of the diverse tribes take great pride in their ancient lineage and the preservation of their culture.

Travel is Safe And Easy With African Fixer Arrangements

Apart from the northern region of Eritrea, traveling around Ethiopia is generally safe.

In the capital, Addis Ababa, the Bole Airport is one of Africa’s success stories; it serves as a hub for many airlines with routes between African, Middle-eastern and European countries. It also offers reliable, affordable domestic flights to most parts of the country.

While the road infrastructure in Ethiopia is good, the mountainous landscape makes vehicle and logistics hire expensive, so transporting film equipment needs the assistance of African Fixer. Once you obtain a filming permit from the Ministry Of Tourism, there are no set fees for hiring drivers, scouting talent or availing yourself of local crew members.

In many cases, if you are filming in remote locations, African Fixer will need to get permission on your behalf from local authorities and all they will accept is a donation. Due to the current instability in Eritrea, it is compulsory for African Fixer to arrange a police escort when traveling outside Addis Ababa.

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