The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.


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09 September 2015

Highlighting Salem Mekuria: Trailblazer

This post was originally published to highlight African women via films online during the Directed by Women worldwide film viewing party - 1-15 September 2015. It includes the link to the personal website of Salem Mekuria: 

Text from Salem Mekuria website (updated):

Salem Mekuria is the director of Mekuria Productions, an independent film production company established in 1987. She is a professor emerita after teaching for twenty four years  in the Art Department at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. She splits her residence between Ethiopia and the United States. Since 1987, she has been an independent writer, producer, director, videographer, and a video installation artist. Her award winning documentary films and video installations feature Ethiopian subjects and have been shown internationally. (Photo:

On this post I will take the opportunity to present excerpts from our interview in 1997 published in my book Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television, 2000.

Beti Ellerson: 
As an African woman you see yourself playing a certain role as a woman?
Salem Mekuria:
When I'm working, I don't think necessarily that I would operate as a woman filmmaker. It's when I am in front of an audience that I know I'm being looked at as a representative of some rare sort, especially as an African woman or as a black woman in the United States, and I feel somewhat responsible, to be responsible. Because I think we have a lot of work to do, I feel that if I don't do well maybe others won't get the same chance that I have.  I'm privileged in many ways, that I have been able to do what I want to do, and so I feel like I should be so responsible sometimes, to make sure that I don't destroy...that I don't burn bridges for other women coming after me.  It's not an easy thing to be, and maybe because I am always the responsible sort, I don't know, sometimes I feel that there is a burden that I have to carry.  But at other times I feel really terribly privileged to be doing something that I love doing.

At other times I feel like I have to focus on stories about women because there aren't that many films being made about stories about women, by women especially. It's a mixed bag. There is real happiness that I am doing this, and there's a certain kind of tension of whether or not I can chose to do anything I want to do.  Do I always have to focus in areas where I feel there is a lack?  Do I have to fill a vacuum?  Those thoughts go in my head at times.

But I love doing stories about women.  Even when it has nothing to do with women particularly. For example, in
Deluge I gravitate towards including women, more women than men, getting stories from the women because I feel that their perspective is neglected. So I feel that is my role as a woman filmmaker. I also feel that I can do it better, because I feel that women open up more to me than they do to men, or they open up in different ways than with men. There is a certain comfort, there's a certain kind of shared experience, they don't have to explain to me. So I feel I have a better handle sometimes in getting some of the stories from women.  I feel that is also a part of my role as a woman filmmaker.

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