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Cinema, History & Politics

Modernity, Fascism & Resistance

How Four Ethiopians Confronted, Maneuvered and Survived the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1941

February 6, 2020
7:00 pm

In collaboration with
Centro Primo Levi
NYU Department of History
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
NYU Department of Italian Studies
NYU Center for the Study of African and the African Diaspora (CSAAD)

Modernity, Fascism & Resistance
How Four Ethiopians Confronted, Maneuvered and Survived
the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1941

A lecture by
Yemane Demissie
NYU Professor / Filmmaker

Heran Sereke-Brhan
Ph.D. Cultural Historian
Interim Executive Director, Commission on the Arts & Humanities

Filmmaker Yemane Demissie’s forthcoming social-history documentary series, The Quantum Leapers: Ethiopia 1916-1975, focuses on the buoyant and tumultuous experiences of Ethiopians during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Synthesizing imagery and narratives from more than 500 interviews and thousands of photographs unearthed from the interviewees’ collections and dozens of international archives, the series considers how the 1935-1941 Italo-Ethiopian War and Occupation compelled the country to reevaluate its age-old traditions in the face of war and modernity.

At this lecture, Yemane will present stories revolving around the airplane—long an emblem of modernity—to explore the interlinked lives of four individuals who confront, embrace or glide with the sudden and immense changes brought about by war, occupation and liberation.


Yemane Demissie is an award-winning filmmaker and educator whose work includes two narrative features, Tumult and Dead Weight and two feature documentaries, Twilight Revelations: Episodes in the life & Times of Emperor Haile Selassie and Asni. He is a recipient of numerous honors including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Academy in Berlin, American Film Institute (AFI) Independent Film & Video-maker Grant, and residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the MacDowell Colony, Civitella Ranieri, Yaddo, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the Dora Maar House.

Presently, Yemane is in post-production for The Quantum Leapers: Ethiopia 1916-1975, a social history documentary series about the Emperor Haile Selassie era. Yemane is a tenured professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where he teaches screenwriting, directing, cinema history, and narrative and documentary production courses at the Kanbar Institute of Film & Television. For his teaching, Yemane received the Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Sony Electronics Faculty Awards.

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