Eritrea: 'No Matter How Far You Have Traveled, There Is Always a First Step'

28 August 2021
interview

He is one of the young growing artists in the Eritrean movie industry who can truly change the way movies are made in Eritrean. People who work with him describe his ideas as out of the box and revolutionary. He is one of the proteges of Efrem Kahsay, a prominent Eritrean filmmaker, who are following the footsteps of a great writer. Meet Meron Michael who is a writer, director, and editor of movies.

Please introduce us with yourself?

My name is Meron Michael, AKA chakur. I was born in 1996 in Asmara. I completed my school years attending several schools in Asmara. After I finished my 11th-grade education here, I went to Sawa with the 27th round to complete my secondary education, and now as part of my national service, I am serving as a data analyst. While doing my national service, I also participate in different aspects of art like writing, directing, and editing movies. Besides, writing poems and painting are my hobbies. I also sometimes work as a cameraman.

How did you get into art?

I stumbled into the world of art during my childhood, especially when I discovered my inclination towards painting. I am also very fond of music (although I cannot keep up with the rhythm). Till now, I am pencil drawing but gave up the dream to be a musician for obvious reasons. During my school years, I participated in courses organized by the office of cultural affairs, I studied acting, directing, and writing for four years under Efrem Kahsay. I also took other art-related courses that helped me enhance my ability to understand art. After I came back from Sawa, I was heavily influenced by the writers in my unit and started writing my own materials. My first short movie was called Mada Lebi. Honestly speaking, it was a no-budget movie, which was like an experimental project with my fellow classmates trying to convey the theories we learned for four years. I also designed movie posters and tried editing as well. After that, I took a break from writing and worked as a production manager for two years.

Why production manager?

The production manager is not my hobby nor my job, but I believed working as a production manager would enable me to meet people in the film industry; so I kept on working as a production manager on almost 130 projects. Just as I hoped for, I was able to meet with people who have experience and great potential to portray artistic works and are greatly interested in the type of art I wanted to produce. Then after working for two years I got back to writing.

Please mention some of your work?

After achieving my goal as a production manager, I wrote and directed a short movie called Feraday, a dual cast and better than my previous work. Then I went into producing better works because I was gaining more financial support. My works include Kbexi, Lebi Eta Fekar, Nebeat Eyu Hayley, Linur, Qebixe'ye, Sean yeqere, and many more.

What makes you distinct from other Eritrean filmmakers?

I think the reason my short movies are different is the element of the screenplay and the angle from which I try to look at them. I firmly disagree with the perception that writers of these days have a concept which is, "a short movie is a summary of a feature film". Most of my movies contain psychological concepts in them, I am not a fan of happy endings so my movies are a bit dark but not sad. I also don't follow the basic principle of short movie writing; I tend to follow the pattern of starting with an incident then reason then conflict finally ends the movie in the climax. Sometimes actors don't appreciate my pattern and in many occasions don't comprehend it. However, audiences always surprise me in grasping my every intent.

Most artists claim their parents were not supportive at first, what's your experience like?

When I was a kid, of course, they wanted me to focus on school, especially my father but my mother was more open-minded so she allowed me to participate in some art activities. I do realize now that when my father went to participate in the war of invasion by Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000, and my mother, a fresh college graduate then, was single-handedly raising me and my siblings. She worked so hard to pay my never-ending demand in taking several art classes. Now, my father is one of my biggest supporters. He is the one who advertises my new movies in the neighborhood also my siblings are my great supporters they are the first ones to lookthrough my scripts.

Does being in the national service affect your art journey?

Yes, it does affect me in a positive way, I was able to meet a lot of artists. I did not know I could write poems until I participated in poetry nights hosted by the poets in my unit. Now I write the lyrics for the soundtracks in my movies. Moreover, I was given the opportunity to participate with the unit's musical troupe, I helped them paint the background for their stage which enhanced my painting ability. I also sometimes worked as a cameraman for documentation purposes.

Future plans?

My plan is to produce movies that can compete in international film festivals.

Thank you for your time!

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