The Embassy of Sweden in Addis Ababa recently organised a Nordic film festival for the second year in a row. The theme this year was was ‘youth empowerment’, while last year it was ‘women’s empowerment’.

How do we empower young people? What platforms are needed to promote young people’s potential? This year’s Nordic film festival in Addis Ababa addressed these issues under the theme of ‘youth empowerment’. The theme coincided well with the theme of the African Union (AU) for 2017, which also focuses on young people’s potential, and the fact that the film festival was organised by a team of the Embassy’s youngest employees and trainees.

Sweden’s screening of the dance documentary ‘Martha & Niki’ included a visit by Niki Tsappos, one of the film’s two main characters who is originally from Ethiopia. The film was a huge success, with a packed cinema, cheers and resounding applause. Fifteen young girls from the orphanage that Niki was adopted from were present for the screening. They also took part in the dance workshop led by Niki the following day. Both Niki’s question-and-answer session after the film screening and the dance workshop were interpreted from English to Amharic. Three other Nordic films related to young people were screened in addition to Sweden’s documentary, and opening night included a panel discussion on young people’s potential – led by and for young people. The panellists, who came from different backgrounds in the arts, volunteer activities, entrepreneurship and academia, shared their views of the best ways to help young people achieve their potential.

Engaged young Ethiopians have few platforms for organising and discussing their needs and ideas, something many visitors commented on during the course of the festival. This is why the Nordic film festival’s theme was important, and the opening night’s panel discussion in particular served as an important discussion forum and hopefully an inspiration for further engagement.

Nordic films can be somewhat difficult to digest in a country such as Ethiopia, but ‘Martha & Niki’ was very popular. The documentary, included in the Swedish Institute’s new film box, is a suitable film for encouraging young people’s creativity and self-confidence, but also for discussing issues concerning norms, friendship and identity.

The Embassy in Addis Ababa organised a Nordic film festival last year, too, when theme was ‘women’s empowerment’. Co-organisers of the festival included the other Nordic embassies operating in the country and the Yellow Movement, an Ethiopian student organisation that works for women’s rights.

Last year’s festival aimed to reach out primarily to Ethiopian audiences to spread Swedish values of gender equality and women’s rights through Nordic film culture. To ensure the film festival was as accessible as possible to Ethiopian students, it was held at the German cultural institute located on the university campus.

The festival’s theme was expressed by all the films either being directed by a woman or having a strong female leading role. Because Ethiopia has a deep-rooted jazz culture, the Swedish Embassy chose to screen the award-winning film ‘Monica Z’, a portrayal of Monica Zetterlund’s musical career in 1960s Stockholm. The film, and particularly the music, was appreciated by both Ethiopian and Nordic audiences. The very popular Ethiopian film ‘Yegna Movie’, which takes place at Addis Ababa University, was also screened. The film deals with subjects such as girls’ opportunities to go to school, abuse within families and forced marriages. The film was followed by a panel discussion on gender-stereotypical portrayals of women and men in film. The audience participated actively in the discussion with comments and questions.

Text: Malin Hellström and Frida Bäckman


See pictures from this year’s film festival:

Pictures on the festival’s Facebook page.

Pictures on the Embassy’s Facebook page.