Activist and Filmmaker Marco Orsini

Marco Orsini is an award winning filmmaker and activist creating documentary and short films such as ‘Un Dia en la Vida’, which premiered at the Sundance film festival. Marco teamed up with is fellow Monegasques to create the charitable organization, IEFTA; the Global Film Expression initiative in Ethiopia that focuses on filmmaker training and development. Marco s highly successful and recent documentary The Reluctant Traveler was recently screened in Monaco to raise money for the IEFTA. The documentary takes us deep into Ethiopia, which has rich cultural heritage.

Interview with Marco Orsini

Iain: How did this documentary come to be?

Marco: I was supposed to be in Sundance that weekend for the film festival, but my partner Mark had a infatuation with Religious Ethiopian artifacts since it is one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, dating back to 400 AD. He had put a trip together and asked me to put a crew to document our trip. I reluctantly said yes (hence the title). The morning we were leaving, Mark gets sick and decides not to go. Instead, I was sent off without him and a film crew, for a month in one of the most inhospitable places in the world with his eclectic group of friends.

What was supposed to be someone else’s adventure became mine. Ethiopia opened up to me, showing me its natural resources, its beautiful people and incredible culture. I left not wanting to leave. I went, not wanting to go. How ironic, don t you think? When I returned to edit the film, I had over 100 hours of footage. The first pass was so boring; my friends were falling asleep watching it. One of my good friends who is also an excellent film director pulled me aside and was brutally blunt with what I needed to do with it. He told me to stop trying to be someone I am not. In other words, be yourself. So the new version of the film is just that; me being myself and the film ending up being a docu-comedy!

It won best film at its premiere in the states and was picked up for distribution at MIPCPM this past October. We are hoping to create a series with it.

Iain: What have you learned from this extraordinary experience?

Marco: I learned about other people s spirituality again. I felt that I had been dead for sometime when it came to my spiritual side. In Ethiopia, people are alive with a spirit. Not just religion but of an ancient spirit that you can see in the peoples faces. Their belief is real. It’s not to look good or to follow rules but it’s what they truly believe. It’s hard to explain. Something you have to see for yourself.

I also learned so much about a country that was border locked for 1000 years to outsiders. This country is fascinating. All should go and see the churches of Lalibela hand carved into the rocks or the Danikil depression which has more active volcanoes then anywhere else on the African continent. The people, the tribes, the food. It made me go back!

Iain: How does the IEFTA help emerging talent in poor nations such as Ethiopia?

Marco: It has been a three-step process:

1: We created an organization within Ethiopia run by Ethiopian filmmakers. Since the end of the civil war, there was a break down of communication between the old filmmakers who came from shooting on film, to the new filmmakers who were completely digital. The two sides weren t talking. We basically went in and held a three-day conference in Addis Ababa also sponsored by UNESCO, the US and Indian Embassies and the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We told them in order to build a film market within their country, they would have to start talking to one another and they would have to run it themselves. So an organization was created called the Ethiopian Film Initiative. It is a committee of Ethiopian filmmakers running the programs and educational development for themselves with some supervision from outside.

2: We then started to create programs within Addis Ababa offering basic training on how to shoot, write and produce a film. We continue with these classes to date since the cost is between 2,000 to 5,000 Euros. So far we have managed to hold 4 per year or one per quarter since 2007. Several short films have been produced since then and we hope more will be made by Ethiopians filmmakers.

3: Our third mandate is to get these films viewed by the Ethiopians as well as abroad. We believe film can be a profitable business for Ethiopia. If you look at how successful Nigeria and South Africa have been with their film markets, you can understand how the same potential can be reached in this country. We are hoping to have some of these films screened at Cannes this year.

Iain: In terms of development, what are the future steps you want to take to advance IEFTA s cause?

Marco: We want to continue to develop Ethiopia s film market to a point that it is self sufficient and independent from our needs. We hope this happens within the next two years. We are also hoping to move this project to another country and hopefully have the same success we had in Ethiopia. We are currently scouting some countries.

Can you tell us about your future film projects and plans for this year’s Cannes Film Festival?

Marco: I am currently working on two separate scripts, both narratives. My real passion is writing and it seems to flow quite easily. One has been optioned and the other is way off!

For Cannes this year, I plan on focusing on the filmmakers from Ethiopia. We are hoping to rally filmmakers from around the world to come and help support their filmmaking process.

To find out more about Marco’s recent documentary The Reluctant Traveler please visit : http://www.thereluctanttraveler.com

Discover Marco’s charity : IEFTA

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