FILM AFRICA FESTIVAL BLOG – Asni: Courage, Passion & Glamour in Ethiopia


A Lesson On Ethiopia: Beyond What We Think We Know

Trailblazer, extraordinary, provocative – this is only a handful of words that friends, actors, producers and others who knew Asnaketch Worku “Asni”, a personality of Ethiopian music and theatre, used to describe her. She spoke about herself as young and crazy, full of spirit and plucky. The whole picture appears in the documentary The Life of Asnaketch Worku Asni. Courage, Passion and Glamour in Ethiopia.

In the doc we get to know Asni – woman, lover, actress, singer and a personality. People from different circles who knew her and the artist herself tell the story of her private life, approach to marriage, passion for music, singing and acting. We from her children, her friends from the stage and beyond, those who worked with her as directors and producers, and those who knew her casusally. Their words are accompanied by the sound of Ethiopian instrument krar. A sound that Asni loved most.

There is resounding respect to this star who paved a way for other women in Ethiopian theatre. Through their memories, we the audience come to know Asni from the moment she was at school, unknown to anyone, until she reached the peak of her career and finally spent her last days in pain and bedridden. We see changing beauty, progress in career and all ups and downs of artist’s life but what remains unchanged is the spirit of passion and daring to be different. The picture of Asni that emerges from all these observations is a picture of a diva and well-respected star despite of her pride and various shortcomings.

However, the documentary pictures not only Asnaketch’s life. It’s a study on history of modern Ethiopian theatre and its meaning, because Ethiopian performing arts stage wouldn’t be the same without Asnaketch and her allure. We learn that before Asni began her career men were shaving their beards and wearing dresses to play female parts. Also there were no wardrobe department, so actors had to use their own clothes what caused sometimes unexpected situations.

Asni is full of energy and passion that resonates not only from Asnaketch herself but from those who speak about her. Asni is a lesson about Ethiopian music and theatre, an insight into last six decades of the country’s history and a tool to get to know the country beyond the hunger and poverty. Ethiopian culture is rich and worth knowing, it’s original and should be valued as a documentary that shows the country and its people from another angle. To watch this documentary along Natsanat is a great way to experience Ethiopia past and present times.

Joanna Sopylo-Firrisa

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