Asmara, Eritrea, documentary & talk, with the director, Caterina Borelli

Ebenezer is delighted to welcome Caterina Borelli for a screening of her new film, Asmara, Eritrea


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Regular Ebenezers will remember Caterina's earlier films, Qudad, and Architecture of Mud, her unique studies of Yemeni building techniques which filled the Ebenezer in 2008. Now Caterina comes in person to bring her distinctive blend of intimate camerawork, architectural appreciation and human document to the Ebenezer, with her most recent film, Asmara, Eritrea.

Asmara, capital of this east African nation, is recognized as an architectural gem. Situated on the edge of a mile high escarpment, today’s central city was largely built in Deco style by Italian colonists at the direction of Mussolini during the1930s. The resulting city incorporated many existing building styles, periods, religions and modes of life. As a result, the population is diverse; small communities of Arabs, Indians, Greeks, Sephardic Jews and the remaining Italians live side-by-side with Tigrinya and other indigenous peoples. Miraculously, it is all unscathed by the war that engulfed Eritrea in the 90s but the times have brought their own complexities.

In Caterina's film, with its evocative soundtrack and varied voices speaking in a multiplicity of tongues, (see preview) she subtly retraces this unique history. Asmarinos from different walks of life guide us through the streets of their city. Through their personal narrations - a chorus of different experiences embodying the nation - the country’s history from colonialism to independence comes to life.

Caterina will give a short talk and show stills, offering insights into her subtle but direct style of film-making which is influenced by her years as a camerawoman on current affairs for RAI, the Italian state broadcaster. Then she will screen the film, and take questions afterward.

Asmara, Eritrea is in Tigrynia, Italian and English - subtitled in English

color, 63 min, 2008a


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Caterina Borelli

Born in 1959, Caterina Borelli is a dual-citizen of Italy and the U.S. She has worked in radio, television, and independent film since the early 1980s.

Her work has shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the British Museum, SOAS, Cambridge University, the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History, the American Museum of the Moving Image, and Centro de Arte Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid among other festivals and institutions.

Caterina is former Senior Producer and U.S. Correspondent for the science series, SuperQuark, on RAI Channel 1 in Italy. Currently she is working on a daily news talk show for RAI, the Italian state broadcaster. She lives in Rome.




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Reviews & Screenings:

"Asmara, Eritrea should serve as a model in documenting African cities.

In particular, the film excels at unpacking a particularly complex 20th century history, which awakens viewers to complex geopolitical forces sparring over the horn of Africa even as it traces the development of a gracious and livable city!"

Z. S. Strother, Riggio Professor of African Arts, Columbia University

Film Festivals, Screenings...

Ownership and Appropriation, Joint Conference of the ASA, the ASAANZ and the AAS, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2008

Muestra de Cine Documental y Etnografico, Puerto Rico, 2009

Association of Social Anthropology UK Conference, Bristol, 2009

International Festival of Archaeological Film, Italy, 2009

Architecture Film Festival, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2009

Days of Ethnographic Film, Moscow, 2009

Visual Africa Series, Museum of African Art, New York, NY, 2010

2012Martin Keeley