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Event Details

Mon, June 04, 2018

19:30 – 20:30

Villa La Pietra
Via Bolognese, 120
50139 Firenze, Italia

In his artist talk, filmmaker & educator Yemane I. Demissie will profile the experiences of three Ethiopians during the Italian War/Occupation, tracing the conflict’s impact on the lives of the individuals from the war through the postwar years.  Demissie’s presentation will be followed by a conversation on film and literature with author Maaza Mengiste.

Featured Biographies

Yemane Demissie


Yemane Demissie teaches film, television and documentary production, writing and cinema studies classes at NYU’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television.  Prior to his move to New York, Yemane taught writing, directing and producing classes at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and UCLA Extension.

An independent writer, producer, and director, Yemane has received numerous awards for his work including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Berlin Prize, the Locarno Film Festival Production Grant, the AFI Filmmaker’s Grant, the Fonds Sud Writing Grant, and the California Arts Council Artists Fellowship.  He has also been invited to several residences including the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the MacDowell Colony, Civitella Ranieri, Yaddo, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the Dora Maar House.

Yemane’s narrative and documentary films have been released in theatres in the United States, Canada, Germany, and in Britain.  They have also screened in over fifty international film festivals including Rotterdam, Seattle, London, Mannheim-Heidelberg, Hamptons, the AFI, Nante, Figueira Da Foz, Midnight Sun and FESPACO, at numerous universities and colleges including Yale, Kyoto, NYU, Stanford, University of Minnesota, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Cornell, and at several museums and national theatres including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Film Theatre in London, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the National Archives in Ottawa,  the Barbican Center in London, and the German National Film Museum in Frankfurt.

Yemane is currently in postproduction for “The Quantum Leapers: Ethiopia 1916-1975,” a social history documentary series that explores and analyzes the efforts of three generations of western educated Ethiopians in transforming their country from an ancient medieval empire into a modern nation state.  He is also developing “…and then the rains return” a narrative feature about the struggles of survivors in a small rural community in Ethiopia during the catastrophic influenza pandemic of 1918.

In 2013, Yemane edited and co-produced “Asni,” a feature documentary about Asnaketch Worku, the preeminent actor and singer who dominated the Ethiopian stage and airwaves between the mid 1950s and early 2000s.  In 2009, Yemane directed, produced and edited two films: “Dead Weight,” a narrative feature about an Ethiopian/Angelino woman who confronts a man who had tortured her in home country, and, “Twilight Revelations: Episodes in the Life & Times of Emperor Haile Selassie,” a feature documentary about the final Ethiopian monarch.  This documentary was produced by MNET, a South African broadcaster, and aired in nearly forty different African countries.

Inspired by events around a coup d’état in 1960 against Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, “Tumult,” Yemane’s first narrative feature, is about an aristocrat-turned-revolutionary who attempts to overthrow the monarchy.

At NYU, Yemane received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, the Sony Electronics Faculty Award and the NIA Faculty Award for his teaching.  In 2011, he was featured in an article entitled “Professing Their Love: Students Explain Why Some Teachers Make School Cool” in the Education Supplement of the New York “Observer.”

Maaza Mengiste


Maaza Mengiste is a novelist, essayist, and photographer. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was selected by the Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and named one of the best books of 2010 by Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe and other publications. Her fiction and nonfiction can be found in The New Yorker, Granta, the Guardian, The New York Times, BBC Radio, and Lettre International, among other places. She was the 2014 Puterbaugh Fellow and a Runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Maaza’s fiction and nonfiction examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of photography and violence. She was a writer on the social-activist documentary film, GIRL RISING, which features the voices of actors such as Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchet, and is at work on another, Belgian-based, documentary. Her second novel, The Shadow King, is forthcoming.