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
Born in Gonder, Ethiopia in 1946, Haile Gerima is the fourth child of ten children.
His father was a writer and his mother a teacher. As a youth Gerima performed in his father's theater troupe, which presented original and often historical drama, always submersed in the genuine culture of Ethiopia.Gerima came to the U.S. in 1967 to study at the Goodman School of Drama. He slowly realized that "with cinema I could control many more things than the theatre." Gerima went on to receive his MFA from UCLA in 1976 and to produce several films. Hour Glass, and Child of Resistance were his first films, Bushmama and Harvest 3,000 Years followed, all produced during his years at UCLA.