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Famous at home, nobodies in exile: three Ethiopian musicians adjust to life in Canada.

In Ethiopia, it is often said that “an artist in exile is like a fish out of water.”

Despite this belief, a growing number of Ethiopian artists, musicians, writers, actors and journalists are fleeing the violence and repression that is spreading in Ethiopia. Many have landed in Toronto, thanks to Canada’s refugee policy.

Safe from physical persecution, they must begin the emotional and spiritual struggle that comes from being cut off not only from the community and people they love the most, but also from elements of life that gave them purpose. Famous at home, they have become nobodies in exile.

In Tizita, three Ethiopian musicians reflect on what they have left behind, how they made it to Canada and how they are trying to rebuild their identities — to become new fish in new water.

The film follows the musicians as they gather to play music drawn from the unique Ethiopian traditional pentatonic musical scale. The scale contains different combinations that are tied to specific themes — “tizita” is associated with songs and stories built around memories.

The film is directed by Gezahegn M. Demissie, an Ethiopian documentary filmmaker who is also a refugee in Canada, trying to reinvent himself.

Credits (Click to expand)

Written by
Gezahegn Mekkonnen Demissie

Produced by
Fraser Ash

Executive Producers
Niv Fichman
Kevin McMahon

Director of Photography
John Minh Tran

Edited by
Antonio Burgio

Featuring (in order of appearance)
Genene Haile
Netsanet Melesse
Girma Woldemichael
Daniel Barnes
Tyler Emond
Gezahegni Mamo

Chief Engineer
Scott Burton

Camera Assistant
Christopher Goll

Production Sound Recordists
Sanjay Mehta
Mike Filippov

Production Coordinator
Daniel D. Negatu

Assistant Editor
Ben Dale

Post Production Services by Sim Post

Arthur Ditner

Assistant Online Editor
Kali Raigh

Junior Online Editor
David Fiorentino

Camera Assistant
Christopher Goll

Post Production Sound by Sim Post

Sound Editor
Barry Gilmore

Re-Recording Mixer
James Bastable

Re-Recording Mix Assistant
Jesse Fellows

General Manager
Peter Gibson

Project Coordinator
Erin Lewis

for Rhombus Media

Kevin Krikst

Dominic Stubbs

Office Manager
Tim Marczenko

for Primitive Entertainment

Production Sound Recordists
Sanjay Mehta
Michael McMahon

Associate Producers
Felicity Justrabo
Ali Weinstein

Maeve Kern
Rosanna Khabbaz

Mohamud Ahmed Tizita
Tilahun Gessesse "Yahulu Chewata" with the Royal Guard Band

Netsanet Melesse "Yilal Doju" with Waliyas Band

Hirut Bekele "Ethiopia Hagere" with Police Orchestra

Genene Haile, Netsanet Melesse and Girma Woldemichael

"Leidgetbehibret Inizmet" the Royal Guard Band
Girma Woldemichael "Loga" Album

Archival footage courtesy of 
Genene Haile, Netsanet Melesse, Girma Woldemichael and Daniel Barnes

Special Thanks

Hirut Restaurant
Tibebe Woldemichael
Hirtu Dagmachew
Lalibela Restaurant
Kera Meat Market
Rendezvous Restaurant
Jolly Bar and Restaurant
Jane Tattersall
Habesha Sports Bar
Christie Pits Pub
Berhanu Teklemichael
Freta Injera
Menbere Berehan St. Mary Church
Teklemichael Abebe
Michael Zewge

Insurance provided by
Front Row Insurance Brokers / Reel Media Canada

CBC Executive in Charge of Production
Lesley Birchard