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Eregnaye- A groundbreaking Ethiopian TV drama

A poster from Eregnaye TV Drama

Abebe Gellaw

It is no secret that the Ethiopian film industry is still in its infancy. While there are some notable movies worth watching, low-budget movies, which are mostly badly scripted and produced hastily, dominate the market. I can confess that I recently started watching a few Amharic movies, sitcoms, and TV dramas but abandoned most of them halfway. They mostly feel like a hotchpotch mix of Hollywood, Bollywood, and their Nigerian counterpart, Nollywood movies patched up together.

While looking for some interesting movies to watch over the Christmas holiday, I stumbled upon a fascinating TV drama. Even if I had heard some good things about it, I did not have the time to spend on the three seasons series. But once I started watching it, I fell in love with it and hooked on the suspenseful drama. I finished the thirty something episodes in four days.

“Eregnaye” is a masterpiece in its own right. The complex storylines, the plots, the protagonists, the acting, the scenery, the cultural nuances, the quality of the images, and the soundtracks are all perfectly weaved into an incredible series of full movies.

After watching the riveting series, I did not leave it there. I was curious to know about the people behind this monumental achievement that has remarkably raised the bar on the Ethiopian film industry.

I learned through quick online research that the great TV drama, which has been dominated by women from start to finish, is a product of a rare collaboration by three busy but ingenious mothers. An interview the three “musketeers” had a few months ago with Dereje Haile of ARTS TV is insightful.

The idea was conceived by Kidist Yilma, the scriptwriter, and director of Eregnaye. She shared her dream with the other women. She did not even know them well enough but admired their work as scriptwriters. She invited Beza Hailu and Azeb Worku to join her in the scriptwriting challenge. Convinced that it was a unique opportunity, they wholeheartedly came on board. The experience was a rollercoaster as they shared the excitement and anxiety, hopes and despairs together. For these cosmopolitan women, the experience was like being pregnant for four years in rural Ethiopia.

The most memorable characters are Emama Cherinet, Enana, Aba Sahilu, Wegayehu, Tasew, and Dawit in no particular order.

Emama Cherinet–Dirbwork Seifu (Emama Cherinet) perfectly plays the kind, wise, and cunning woman who constantly calms the storm despite the tragedy that has befallen her family. She is wholly immersed in the character she played with skill and grace. Dirbwork proved to be an accomplished actor who can make you replace her with the fictional character she plays masterfully.

Enana–Who can play Enana other than the multitalented artist Sayat Demissie? Shepherding is a dominant part of Ethiopia’s rural communities. But as it has been well portrayed in the drama, shepherds are undervalued and unappreciated despite their critical contributions. With humility and perfection, Sayat placed herself in the shoes of an unfortunate shepherdess who got caught in a web of family troubles. Characters like Tasew were more worried about the scandal plagued family reputation than the real people, like Enana, Dawit, and Wegayehu, who needed kindness, support, and understanding. Sayat deserves commendation for her well-executed role. 

Aba Sahilu (Fikreyesus Zewdie) is an anchor on a stormy sea. He is always calm and wise . He complemented Emama Cherinet quite well. The trust between the two characters is always pleasing to watch. Fikreyesus wholly transforms himself into the lovable figure Aba Sehilu. Such a skill is needed to make a great story engrossing. 

Dawit–Determined to fulfill the unfulfilled dreams of his grandfather, Dawit (Solomon Bogale) is undeterred by his physical disability to fight for education–a cause dear to heart. Making enemies along the way, he ruffles feathers in a village that never welcomed him. Solomon Bogale, an actor with a big heart in real life, was well-suited to play Dawit with passion and prowess. 

Her life tragically turned upside down by teenage pregnancy, Wegayehu (Mulualem Tadesse) passes through a series of tough times. Mulualem skillfully captured a woman whose face always shows her anxiety. Without her saying a word, one can read Wegayehu’s sadness and worries as she sets out to find the father of her lovechild. Wegayehu seemed to have been cut and created for Mulualem.

Tasew (Kurabachew Deneke) and his wife Welansa (Asrat Dejene), Masresha (Meaza Takele), Atsede (Kalkidan Tibebu), among many others, played their respective roles very well. I really enjoyed watching each episode.

Kidist Yilma deserves an “Oscar” or an award of the highest order. Eregnaye was her dream that has come to life with the help of so many incredible professionals. Bringing together such a large army of professionals, including top actors, producers, camera crew, and directing the series is not an easy feat. This is what is called leadership in action. Kidist was there throughout all the challenging ups and downs and critical decisions from a to z. No doubt she had so many sleepless nights to make her dream come true.

Kidist is undoubtedly a highly driven woman who toiled day in day out to bring Eregnaye to fruition. For that to happen, courage is the driving force that enabled her to fulfill a dream that ordinarily seems out of reach. As the adage goes, those who dare and persevere win.

Like so many people, I look forward to the next episodes. In the meantime, hats off to Kidist the lead star and her colleagues for their monumentally groundbreaking achievement!

Editor’s note : Abebe Gellaw first shared the article on Facebook. Published with his permission. 

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