Dr. Steven W. Thomas, professor of English at Wagner College, received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach film studies and conduct research on Ethiopia’s film and media industry. After arriving in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, in September 2016 and briefly visiting the lakeside town of Bishoftu for the Oromo thanksgiving festival of Irrecha, he has been teaching a graduate seminar on film theory for the new master of arts degree program at Addis Ababa University. (For photographs, please scroll down.)
Thomas has also been performing some educational community service. Working with a small, local film company, Sandscribe Communications, he partnered with local community and government organizations to arrange two nine-week courses that were free and open to the public. One of the courses was organized in partnership with the American embassy and the Alatinos young filmmakers association in Ethiopia. (“Alatinos” means “genuine” or “truthful” in the ancient Ethiopian language, Ge’ez.) It has been hosted every Friday evening by the American Center in Ethiopia’s National Archives and Library Agency.
The other course was organized by Sandscribe in partnership with the Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau and has been hosted every Saturday morning by the city government’s Ras Theater.
The subject of both courses is “America in Movies,” touching upon various topics such as race, class, gender, ethnicity and disability. Thomas taught a similar course at Wagner in fall 2014 as part of the First Year Program. Discussing movies from several countries around the world, from Italy to Mali (not just America), the students have been analyzing how filmmakers use various techniques like montage editing, decentered storytelling and flipped genre conventions to address those complex issues.
Sandscribe students have also met with Thomas in small groups to discuss the course and their own film projects. In addition, Thomas has been working closely with local Ethiopian scholars to research different aspects of Ethiopia’s cinema history. He plans on travelling to regional university campuses in Hawassa, Mekele and Jimma to give lectures and meet with faculty. He returns to Wagner in January for the spring semester.