“The issue of environmental protection is not something that I can leave aside. It’s part of my life.”
By Aklile Tsige /ABN/
What would you do with your time if you were famous? Some of us would spend all of our free time sitting on a beach or a yacht; others would write a book, or produce a play. And there are certainly more than enough celebrities who do those things. However, there are also some stars that use fame to improve other people’s lives, instead of their own.
Raised in the African capital, Addis Ababa once a model, a journalist, and later a writer, an actress, director and producer AmlesetMuche made a name for herself as an actress after taking on the big role in her own romantic comedy-sileFikir. She appears to be a Jack-of-all-trades while being a mother of a son and a daughter as well as a wife of the renowned Ethiopian song writer and vocalist TewodrosKassahun also known as Tedy Afro. ABN Editor-in-Chief AklileTsigetalks to Amleset at her studio, Maya Film Production.
ABN Q1. I think your first profession is journalism. How did you get into it first?
Amleset: I have studied Journalism at Unity University College since I have a passion for literature, but I didn’t move further with it. I used to work as a freelance writer for the weekly Amharic newspapers-Addis Admasand the Reporter for a short period of time.
ABN Q2. Tell us how you managed to succeed in beauty pageant and modeling.
Amleset: I first took part in Miss University beauty pageant while I was a student at Unity University and won the title-Miss University in2004. Then representing Ethiopia, I participated in a beauty contest at the international level and could hold Miss World Ethiopia title in 2006. This profession, indeed, helped me a lot in my life. It has also given me the opportunity to travel to Poland and China to partake in a beauty contest. But it’s hard to keep going with it; it’s very seasonal.
As far as modeling is concerned, I didn’t go through meaningful modeling practices that I can mention as an achievement. I have realized that this profession wouldn’t take me a long distance and I had to switch to another profession that I’ve been anticipating.
“The issue of environmental protection is not something that I can leave aside. It’s part of my life”
ABN Q3. What about your life in the film-making profession? How did all begin?
Amleset: Frankly speaking, the film-making profession is what I’ve been dreaming of since my childhood. I have written my first film script for a romantic comedy entitled ‘SileFikir’ when I was in high school. It has really received great admiration from the audience. Then I appeared in ‘Yifelegal’ and other films.
I have also written and produced a documentary film under the title ‘Green Ethiopia’, featuring environmental protection and climate change. I did this film because as individual global warming and environmental degradation torments me too much. I feel satisfied spiritually when I see the green environment, but I feel depressed and bothered when I stay in the sun. So there was a need to do something through a strong communication tool, and that’s a documentary film.
The film aimed to create awareness among the general public, and in collaboration with the US Embassy, the film was premiered to high school and university students, and also released via social media. I strongly believe that the film achieved its objective; many people who watched the documentary disclosed that they didn’t have that understanding and knowledge about the catastrophic effects of climate change, and the film helped them raise their level of awareness on the matter.
‘Green Ethiopia’ includes the views of different individuals who have got in-depth insight into climate change and environment protection like volunteer clean campaigner, Sileshi Demissie (gash Aberra Molla), Captain Solomon Gizaw, Professor Legesse Negash, Dr, Mulualem, Abyssinia Flight Founder and General Manager, former FDRE President Girma Welde Georgis, and the renowned world-class athlete, Haile Gebreselassie. I really learn a lot from these high-profile individuals that environment protection is a national obligation and a very crucial issue to human beings; it’s a matter of life and death in general.
ABN Q4. What do you intend to do in strengthening your contribution to this endeavor?
Amleset: Yes, indeed, it’s deep in my heart; the issue of environmental protection is not something that I can leave aside. It’s part of my life. If I don’t strive for a better environment, I won’t live a better life. I strongly feel that the issue is my concern. So, I am writing a script for another documentary film depicting environmental protection issues in Africa; it demands huge amount of budget, and I have to travel and do the video shootings in different parts of the continent.
ABN Q5. Have you taken any film-making training?
Amleset: Yes, I studied film-making at New York Film Academy, USA for two years after I had produced my first movie-‘Sile Fikir’, and the training included courses such as script-writing, directing, acting and other related courses.
ABN Q6. Let’s talk about your very recent film-“Minalesh”. How were you motivated to do such a film?
Amleset: It was initially entitled to be ‘Min Alesh Hager’ literally means what does a country have? As human beings what do we have? It’s only when you realize what you have that you try to search for something you lack. I embarked on forwarding an idea that I believe would bring about attitude change.
The theme of the film centers on poverty, beauty, and athletics. As Ethiopia is well-known for being poor, people’s beauty and athletics, we can integrate all these qualities for good cause. If we don’t accept our being poor, we won’t get out of it. But if we accept that, it’s possible to fight against poverty and get over it. The film implies that if we do set a clear goal or vision, and running to pull the nation out of the quagmire poverty.
This has been made real by our famous athletes such as Haile G/ Sillasie, Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu who have hoisted up our national flag high in the international sports arenas. So, for me these athletes are a symbol of victory and achievement; if other professionals like medical doctors, nurses, and engineers run like our athletes, we can make a difference. That’s what the film tries to impart.
ABN Q7. You have recently been to Switzerland to premiere your film-‘Minalesh’; how was the reaction of the audience there?
Amleset: The reaction was really more than I had expected. I usually admire the efforts we Ethiopians exert to support each other. I feel honored to see many Ethiopians traveling a long distance to watch my movie. The film reminds the audience of their connection to ‘Mercato’; it was nostalgic for many of them. It was generally wonderful for its one way of promoting the country.
ABN Q8.What do you think are the challenges the Ethiopian film sector faces?
Amleset: First and foremost, we don’t have film training centers or academy; Ethiopian filmmakers have simply developed their knowledge and skills traditionally. Secondly, there is a big problem in importing film-making equipment and materials; Film-making is viewed by many as a luxury, not as a basic tool to bring about cultural and socio-economic changes. So these things have limited its development.
“My father is my inspiration. He was a good teacher, kind-hearted and generous; many of his students witness his good personality”
Q9. What about the audience here at home?
Amleset: We the filmmakers need to present the audience standard and quality films; it’s only then that the audience pays whatever money he or she is asked to watch our movies. The audiences excel our understanding of films since they are exposed to various global movie channels. Our life by itself is a movie, a school.
ABN Q10. As a mother and jack-of-all-trades, how do you maintain the balance between life and your job?
Amleset: I love my profession; so I have to allocate sufficient time for that. I refrain myself from whiling away my time in vain. I am always programmed, taking care of my children and focusing on my job are the major tasks I regularly carry out. I can say that my job doesn’t affect my family life at all.
ABN Q11.You are now becoming a philanthropist; you and your husband, Teddy Afro have recently adopted some six or seven children. This is really a wonderful thing; how did the idea stem from? And how are these children doing right now?
Amleset: I and my children do have the habit of visiting the needy during holidays; I want my beloved children to know that there are people lacking basic needs. It was a Muslim holiday when I and my kids visited a rehabilitation center headed by sister Zebider. Looking at the situation the children at the center are in, an idea crossed my mind: To help ten children get food, for the time being, giving them birr 400 each per month, and if I get stronger by the help of the Almighty God, I would also stretch my hands to fulfill other needs of the children, like helping them get education and shelter. It is a very simple thing that everyone could do.
ABN Q12. Who is your role model in life?
Amleset: My father is my inspiration. He was a good teacher, kind-hearted and generous; many of his students witness his good personality; he used to press me to read books so that I could develop my love for literature. He was also telling me about his life experience which I might learn a lot from.
“I am dreaming of establishing modern and huge film Production Company like Paramount and Universal Pictures.”
ABN Q13. You are a mother of a beautiful son and a daughter. How does it feel to be a mother and a multi-professional woman?
Amleset: In life, it’s only God giving us all the natural gifts and we have the choice to pick what we are born for. So it’s manageable to perform various tasks at a time as long as we’re committed.
ABN Q14. What is success for you? Do you think you are successful?
Amleset: Success for me is realizing what you need, but not getting what you want. Realizing what you want and the journey you make to get what you want is a success. If a man doesn’t make a journey, he won’t be happy. There is an opportunity to find and develop oneself, to be happy, sad, laugh, and ultimately enjoy life through the journey we are making. So I can say I found this. I’m moving forward; I do have a clear vision. That is what success means to me.
ABN Q15.What is your vision? Where do you want yourselfto be in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time?
Amleset: I am dreaming of establishing modern and huge film Production Company like Paramount and Universal Pictures. The other dream I have is to change amazing and magnificent stories in our country into films.
ABN Q16. The company you run-Maya Film Production is producing various audio-visuals; does it create job opportunity for citizens?
Amleset: My Company has created a permanent job opportunity for six professionals. But in most cases, I team up professionals on a temporary basis when there is a project that demands lots of professionals. So the number of job opportunity depends on the types of the project.
Q17. What is your favorite ….?
Amleset: pastime–Sporting at a gymnasium
Meal? Lentil stew (misir wet)
Drink? Water with lemon
Music? Teddy Afro’s songs