I’m always moved by films made out of necessity, by people who simply had to pick up a camera and shoot, to tell a story that no one else was telling. Particularly when those films are made under challenging circumstances. It’s easy for us, in the United States and in Europe, to take our systems and traditions for granted. Making a movie is always hard, but making a movie in an undeveloped nation, during a state of unrest, for and about a population that will have little chance of ever seeing it, is next to impossible.
The great Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima came to UCLA to study filmmaking in the early 70s, and it was during that time that he conceived and made the film that you’re about to see, in a beautiful new restoration from the Cineteca di Bologna. Harvest 3000 Years was shot on black and white 16mm, over two weeks during Gerima’s summer vacation, with non-actors speaking Amharic, during the civil wars. It was made on the run, right after the overthrow of Haile Selassie and right before the installation of a military dictatorship. On top of everything else, Gerima was prepared to adapt the theme of his film to the most recent political developments. Difficult conditions, you might say. I’d call them all but impossible.
That sense of impossibility pervades every frame of Harvest 3000 Years. It has a particular kind of urgency which few pictures possess. This is the story of an entire people, and its collective longing for justice and good faith. An epic, not in scale but in emotional and political scope. —Martin Scorsese, World Cinema Foundation
Harvest 3000 years (Mirt Sost Shi Amit) provides an epic and harsh picture of peasant life in contemporary rural Ethiopia, which despite a few indications of modernity still seems to be immersed in a different time. It is the description of the fight and resistance of a people against the abuse of large landowners, conveyed with the power of militant and avant-garde cinema. It evokes the history of Italian colonialism, which has left its indelible traces on the black and white of the frames.
Harvest 3000 years, filmed by Haile Gerima in 1976, is a timeless masterpiece, a visual poem that possesses the power, expressiveness and physicality of silent film. It represents a cry for help, a condemnation that shows itself through a clear and solid form of cinema in every frame.
Gerima narrates the days of the peasants, from when they awake at dawn to sunset, from their work in the fields to housework, with documentary precision and visionary intensity, from a viewpoint in which crude realism is contaminated by depths inhabited by nightmares, dreamlike and sometimes grotesque signs, and by a gallery of unforgettable faces carved in (cinematic) time.
With Harvest 3000 years, and his other works, Haile Gerima, Ethiopia’s most important filmmaker and an invaluable exponent of the African diaspora, has created an original and necessary genre, examining the history and memories of the Ethiopian people, of deported African slaves and the African-American community. —Giuseppe Gariazzo
Gerima was born and raised in Gondar, Ethiopia, where he sat around the fire engrossed in the tales told by parents and grandparents. His father, a dramatist and playwright who traveled across the Ethiopian countryside staging local plays, was perhaps his greatest influence, nurturing a love of the art.
He immigrated to the United States in 1968, at the age of twenty-one, with an interest in theatre. In Chicago, he enrolled in acting classes at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. “When I was growing up,” he reveals in the Los Angeles Times, “I wanted to work in theatre—it never occurred to me I could be a filmmaker because I was raised on Hollywood movies that pacified me to be subservient. Film making isn’t encouraged or supported by the Ethiopian government.” He felt limited by theatre and was resigned, notes Francoise Pfaff, to “subservient roles in Western plays.” By 1970 he had discovered “the power of cinema.”
He migrated to California to attend the University… read more
If I ever get the chance to teach a course in film, this would definintly be one of my top selections. A must see.http://www.youtube.com/user/oneleggedwomanqueen#g/c/F434615A0514380C
"Harvest: 3000 Years" is not just by far the greatest African film I have yet seen, but also another stellar masterpiece of world cinema that won't make it into the annals of film history since it was made in an underdeveloped third world country. It's our loss that we tend to ignore their artistic output, and a missed opportunity to get a better understanding of a whole culture which our "civilization" devastated.