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Thomas, Michael William (2019) Cinema in Ethiopia : Genre, Melodrama and the Commercial Amharic Film Industry. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores the emergence of the commercially viable Amharic film industry in Ethiopia, investigating its system of genres and the manifestation of an Ethiopian-style melodrama. Emerging in 2002 from an economic scenario devoid of government support and dependent on entrepreneurial action, the commercial Amharic film industry is centred in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, where cinemas are devoted to screening the latest local releases to a young cinemagoing public. Film genre terms in Amharic are strikingly visible in the Ethiopian context. They often appear written on film posters, voiced in television and radio trailers and denoted in cinema listings. This experience of locally produced and consumed popular cinema and the prevalence of Amharic genres to its organisation offers an alternative case study to mainstream film cultures and experiences of cinema in Africa and around the world, while also presenting a point of keen comparative interest. Enabled through ethnographic and textual research methods, this study applies a sustained and detailed appreciation of the history of Ethiopia, its specific cultural milieu and social orientations as central to understanding the nature of Amharic cinema. Contributing a historically and culturally conditioned study helps to focus on the role of local specificities in understandings of cinema in a field experiencing a trend towards more transnational approaches. Balancing an awareness of both local and global interactions through a study of genre and melodrama and their usages by producers and consumers in the Ethiopian case study reveals new conceptualisations of these phenomena and their interdependency. The research findings detail the affective characteristics that delineate most Amharic genres and the role an Ethiopian-style melodrama plays in this popular cinema, negotiating between romantic, familial, patriotic and spiritual notions of ፍቅር - fiker/love.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Lindiwe Dovey
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 13 May 2020 10:50

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