The Big Araia Project is still moving forward. Getting permission to film in my father’s country is proving to be a rather complicated process. I am excited, however, because developments are moving in a positive direction. I would like to thank the following people for their continued support: Asmayit Yohannes, Mebrat Kidane, Mike Tekle, Jonni Tecle, Michael Richie, Meron in NY, Elinor Tesfamariam, Rahel Beraki, Fitsum Yohannes, The Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Rho Upsilon Chapter, and ever growing number of friends, and family.
As the anniversary of Eritrean independence approaches, I am reminded of how important it is for our people, especially our young people in the diaspora, to never lose focus on protecting and preserving our cultural heritage and identity.
Growing up away from community left me with a desire to repair the broken connection with my roots. For some of us in the US, Europe, and beyond, it is easy to get distracted with the hectic, individualistic ethos of the Western world. We must not forget to preserve what our people sacrificed so much for. Eritrea isn’t just a set of lines on a map. It’s a dream made real. It’s that moment of love and fellowship you are sharing right now with your family during Fasika. It is that warm sense of community that takes over a room filled with our people, weather we are celebrating a wedding or just watching a movie in someone’s living room.
My goal with film project is to create something that will encourage our youth to continue to embrace their culture. Sharing my own search for Eritrean identity is my way of taking part in that effort. Please watch the promo above and click here if you would like to support my endeavor.
The effort to get this project fully funded continues. This Saturday, Feb. 2, I will be hosting a party at Dahlak Restaurant in Seattle with DJ Hollywood providing the beats. Please come out and have a good time. I will also give a presentation on on my film project during the event for people who want to learn more. Party starts at 10 and the cover is $20. Please come and help an Eritrean dream come true!
Before I get into a long, protracted appeal for the viability of this project, I have a few confessions to make concerning the process of fund-raising for this film:
- I have never solicited for donations before. I actually hate asking for anything, so this has been an “outside of my comfort zone” experience.
- I know it’s rather big headed of me to think anyone would care to see a film about a portion of my life story. I’m not famous for anything, nor have I done anything particularly remarkable to deserve to have my story on film. But hell, if the kids from Jersey Shore get five seasons on TV, you’re watching my shit too.
- This is my first film. And yes I am qualified to pull it off. Plus my crew is THAT good.
- I know you mean well when you give me advice on how best to help my project. And you seem surprised when I am a little short with you. So, let’s try a little experiment. I am going to come to your job tomorrow and tell you how to do it better…
- There is much about the making of this project I can’t talk about in public. I have never gone through a pre-production process with any kind of geopolitical implications before, but it has required me to be reticent to a degree that I am not accustomed to.
- I know you are tired of seeing the posts on FB and twitter. I would be too if it were someone else doing it on my timeline. Then again, it’s not like I don’t know what your kids look like, you could try posting only one pic a week…
- My little cousin Feven in Atlanta finally made me come to grips with how important fame, no matter what the cost, has become in media. When asking me about my work she wanted to know if I had done anything famous. Not successful, not good, but famous…
- I spent $100 dollars raising the first $10,000 for this film and $,4000 raising the next $3000.
- It took me 8 months just to get enough headway in the Eritrean communities within the US to be able to raise a little money for the film. Many older Eritreans don’t use social media very often. And while Americans will often donate to a cause based on a good web presentation, Eritreans want to see you in person and ask you a few questions first… OK lots of questions. LOL It’s just a different cultural approach.
- I have been offered a few really big checks to make the film, but there were strings attached and I am not a puppet.
- I know money is tight these days, and I have been humbled by my friends with the level of kindness they have shown me this year.
- I honestly don’t care if you think I have a big ego for attempting this. You can’t BE a filmmaker with out having a big ego. You are attempting to make people see what you want them to see. It’s an imposition of will. That’s ego at its finest.
Making a film like “Big Araia” is, in many ways, a big mistake. When you consider that the current major media offerings we have to choose from place a high value on ignorant behavior and voyeuristic access to the most mundane aspects of celebrities lives, one would wonder where is there room for a film project that requires your brain to move beyond base pleasures and into the aesthetic. Simply put, “Why watch some Black nerd’s potentially sappy and preachy African reunion when you can decompress after a stressful day at the office by watching Tia and Tamara buy baby clothes or stare in shock as you view two women argue about who gave better head to “Stebbie J” during the reunion special for a show called “Dear God I Hope My Daughter Isn’t Watching This and Taking Notes!”
I’m a “creative”, it’s a catchall term for artists, filmmakers, musicians, and the like, but it suits me. It’s what I do, I create. From my minds eye I can take the abstract and fashion it into a physical entity you can watch over and over again. I don’t have to tell you about my thoughts and dreams, I can show you. For most of the last 100 years, people like me have been at the mercy of a few gate keepers, whose only concern is return on investment, the monetization of what was supposed to be a purely pleasurable experience. And, to a degree, it has to be that way.
Film-making requires large amounts of cash and those that can risk large sums on feature films are few and far between. But, the bi-product of this system is that those fortunate enough to have the resources to make a movie decide what gets made. So, their thoughts, notions, perceptions, and prejudices prevail over all that you see on the big, and small screen. I may have a great idea for a film, one that may become a surprise financial hit, but because the subject mater and presentation of such doesn’t fit into the current paradigms of profitability, Hollywood is closed to me. All seems lost for the indie filmmaker. Especially for the creative person of color in the US. With no one in media’s various seats of power that looks like us or whose thinking is divergent enough to test the uncharted waters of the Black Aesthetic mind, great films and TV shows featuring African-Americans are stillborn in the same delivery room that brings forth bragadocious, blond-weaved, bare-it-all buffoonery.
In this sea of cinematic despair, there is hope. Technology. The cost of production and access to the eyes of the globe are open to the artist of little means in a way people only dreamed of twenty years ago. The notion that I could create something, post it, and have it available for anyone to easily view at little or no cost is truly revolutionary. But there is a catch. With all this low cost access to the market that Black creatives like myself now have, we are now subject to new gate keepers, new kings of media. Only this time, I don’t have to appeal to a rich few, I appeal to you. All of you. You have untold power in your numbers. A power to decide what you see and when you see it. Collectively, you have more power than any executive at a major film studio. One person with a fifty dollar bill isn’t exactly an economic force, but 100,000 people with $50 is.
There is untapped potential in YOU. Never before have you had the kind of power you have now as an audience. Instead of choosing which finished projects you will spend your money on, you become the studio executive. Consumer as creator. That’s power.
If you want to put that power into action, support this project. Let’s see if we can beat the system instead of begging it to let us play. Click here to bring this project to life.
Thank you in advance,
Araia Patrick Tesfamariam
PS. If you want to really make a big move, support Chanelle in her quest to start her own online TV network. There are some really talented people trying to make things happen out here, folks!
It has taken quite a bit of time to make connections within the Eritrean Community in DC, but thanks to the help of some great friends, I am starting to make some progress in that area. I am having a fundraiser in DC ( My last one for that area) this Friday Nov. 16th at the Eritrean Cultural Civic center on 600 L St. NW. The party starts at 10pm and music will be provided by Delina Sounds. Admission is $20 to help raise money for the film project! If you want to know more about why I am throwing all of these events, click here -> http://bigaraia.com/?p=133
The effort make this movie a reality has been more than a journey. I know that filming in Eritrea will be an experience filled with emotion and self discovery. I was not prepared, however, for the level of gravitas that would be involved with the pre-production of this project. Today my mother and I had lunch with Michael Beyene, a very close friend of my father’s I had only seen once since I was about 3 years old. The last time I had spoken with him in person was at a funeral when I was 14. I remember him being excited to see me then and wanted to get me connected with my people. But life, with it’s various ups and downs, has kept us a part until today.
Before sitting across the table from him today, he was just a face I would see in my mother’s old photo albums from time to time. I used to wonder what his name was or how he was connected to me. And now, sitting here looking him in the face after so many years, I feel that strange combination of loss, regret, happiness, and hope that has become an all too familiar sensation during my quest to learn more about my father. You could see it in his eyes and my mother’s as well, a sense of grief all those years gone by disconnected coupled with the joy of finally being given the chance to help put the pieces of this scrambled family story together.
We spoke about many topics: my life after he saw me as a teen, his experiences with my father in Adi Kieh and in the States, and how he could help me with getting this project filmed. I have had to struggle blindly to navigate the intricacies of learning how to communicate with Eritrean community in the states and abroad, and I have had a difficult time understanding how to deal with the process of getting all the permission I need to film in Eritrea. Michael has offered to help with both of those challenges.
Meeting with him after all these years, along with recently hearing from a few other people in the states that really knew him, has helped reiterate something that I used to see only in my mother’s reminisces about my father. Araia Selassie Tesfamariam was important to a lot of people, and when he passed away in 1978, the loss weighed heavy on the hearts of a lot of the people he had known. I never had those feelings. Having never met him, it is hard to feel the same sense of grief. My pain from his death manifests itself in a sense of separation from my people and their culture. When he died I lost a father, which is tragic enough, but in a larger sense I lost a people and a part of my identity. America is a dangerous place to be spiritually and psychologically when you don’t know who you are, because it will start to dictate that to you if you let it.
I am looking forward to moving this production forward at a quicker, and more efficient pace. This experience, along with a great fundraiser thrown by my friend Michael Tekle in DC last week, have given me renewed energy. Included in this post are pictures of Michael Beyene’s wedding in 1980, and one of our wonderful lunch today! Seeing my mom that young (she’s wearing the long blue patterned dress in the second photo) is odd – we really do look alike. God bless and don’t forget to donate to the film here -> http://bigaraia.com/?page_id=21 2000 people donating $25 makes this film happen.
I’m on Voice of Eritrea talking about why it is important to support this project. Please listen in! http://www.voiceoferitrea.com
Join us this Friday, Oct 19th for a special Big Araia fundraising party at Tagolio Italian Restaurant 549 23rd Street South Arlington, VA 22202. Meet the filmmaker Araia Tesfamariam and have a great nigh out! The video presentation for the Big Araia project starts at 9pm and the music starts at 10pm. Free admission. You will be able to make a donation to the film project at the party.
Do something you have always wanted to do. Support a great African film project and help create something special. I am going to make a film about finding my Eritrean family this year and I am raising funds to pay for the production. 1000 people donating $25 helps make this project a reality. It sounds grand, but it is reachable. For a very small donation, you can create something permanent… and be a filmmaker!
By supporting the “Big Araia” film project you can be a part of something special. This documentary project is about reconnecting with African people, history, and culture in a very personal way. I am doing this without big financial backers, so it will take people like you, who believe that cinema is more than making things blow up, to help me tell this story. Watch the promo video -> http://bigaraia.com/?page_id=37, and if you like the story I am trying to tell donate here. -> http://bigaraia.com/?page_id=21
Buy donating to the “Big Araia” film project you can be a part of something special. This documentary project is about reconnecting with African people, history, and culture in a very personal way. I am doing this without big financial backers, so it will take people like you, who believe that cinema is more than making things blow up, to help me tell this story. Watch the promo video and if you like the story I am trying to tell donate here. -> http://bigaraia.com/?page_id=21
My goal is to find 2000 people on FB to donate $25 to fund this project!