Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 6th
CreativeCOW presents Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 6th -- Indie Film & Documentary Feature

On location diary from Ethiopia All rights reserved.

April 6
This was our last "real" day of shooting, tomorrow we drive back to Dire Dawa, fly from there to Addis, then have about 10 hours before heading back to LA via Istanbul. Even though this has been a short trip, we've been hitting it so hard that we're getting a bit worn down. Today was scheduled a little lighter as it was a Saturday and schools weren't in session. We did start the day at the last school we visited for a meeting set up between Jessica and a family who has been keeping their deaf daughter home from school. The parents claim they can't bring her to school as it is too far away and they can't afford transport. An NGO has offered to pay for transport and any school fees and Jessica was asked to convince them of the importance of school and that she can lead a good life despite her disability. The girl, Be'imnet, 7, was wild and edgy when she first saw us and we determined that Hilary with her big front pack and long boom was bothering her.

Be'imnet early in the meeting, with her father.

We left Be'imnet outside with a teacher while we met with the family. After a while, Be'imnet wandered in, but stayed away from us and we thought to send Hilary outside and just record with radio mics and I would run a mic on camera. Soon Be'imnet was running around and enjoying the room and our company and a bit after that, Hilary rejoined us. In the end, it seems that Be'imnet will be back in school, hopefully it will last this time. One of the reasons she was having a hard time with us is that with her very limited signing skills, it was so hard to let her know what was going on, much less to help her feel comfortable. It was a graphic example of how isolated people with disabilities can feel. We were with Be'imnet for a mere hour and we saw how she struggled with her fear. It was sobering to realize that this is her life, all day, every day.

Be'imnet later, much more comfortable with everyone.

After the meeting we were invited to the schoolmaster's mother-in-law's home for another coffee ceremony. The home was a wonderful, old traditional house, unlike anything we'd seen before and the family was most gracious.

The traditional home of the schoolmaster's mother-in-law was completely charming.

Roasting coffee in a traditional home.

We took advantage of their hospitality to film our crucial interview with Jessica assessing the trip. We were very fortunate to get a great interview in their courtyard in spite of the following noises: birds fighting, children playing and shouting outside the gate, the muezzin's call, hammering, donkeys braying and a rooster who was confused about the time. The sound was excellent throughout.

Interviewing Jessica in the courtyard, despite donkeys, a rooster, children playing, hammering, and a muezzin's call.

We did end our shooting by 4pm, which left us time for two "extra-curricular" activities. We bought some qat and went to a place to chew with our translator Salah.

Salah explaining qat to everyone.

I first chewed qat in Yemen in the 90s, which I found enjoyable and a great way to connect with people and useful in understanding the culture.


Three years ago, in Somaliland, I was reintroduced and it didn't impress me nearly as much. I pushed for us to try it again here because I knew that Salah chewed and he had been so fantastic and great to be with and it was a nice way to say goodbye. Both Hilary and Nick were keen to try it and we had a lovely time relaxing and talking. The qat had a minimal effect, except on Nick, who drank two cokes while we were chewing (over an hour or so) and he barely slept through the night.

Bill explaining the finer points of chewing qat to Nick

Hil and qat

After dinner we went to feed hyenas. I've seen a lot of things, but never this. There is a family on the outskirts of Harar that has a long-running relationship with a pack of hyenas. From what I can gather, three hyenas live with the family, but at night, another dozen show up and get fed most unusually. Their "handler" feeds them meat by putting it on one end of a foot-long stick and putting the other end in his mouth. Supposedly, there has never been an accident. Others (only tourists, as far as I can imagine) pay to have the hyena crawl up their back and take the meat from them in the same manner. We had three of those types with us: Hilary (naturally,) Molly Feltner, from HI (she'd already done it before and was the one who arranged the expedition) and Patrick. They had fun, it was amazing to be so close to these strange and somewhat beautiful creatures, but I had no desire to experience the feeling of having an 80lb wild beast breathe in my ear.

Hilary feeding a hyena

A dozen or more hyenas live outside but come every night for feeding.

On our way back to our hotel, we saw a hyena running through the median on a main boulevard. It was spooky.

Spooky hyena.

The rest of the night was spent packing for our last day and return trip home.