“Made in Ethiopia”, a Film Exploring Ethiopia’s Nascent Industrialization

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In the documentary “Made in Ethiopia,” Xinyan Yu and Max Duncan skillfully zoom in on the broader topic of China’s presence in Africa, focusing intimately on the lives of specific Chinese and Ethiopian individuals. Set within a Chinese industrial hub in Dukem, a quaint town near Addis Ababa, the film tracks the aspirations of a determined Chinese entrepreneur aiming to grow her enterprise. Yet, it also delves into the ripple effects of this growth, notably impacting a local factory worker and a nearby farming family.

Trailer International Trailer for Made In Ethiopia

Filmed over the span of four years, “Made in Ethiopia” offers a revealing glimpse into China’s profound yet often misunderstood influence on Africa. It immerses viewers into the collision of two contrasting worlds: a bustling industrial powerhouse driven by profit and progress, juxtaposed with a fading rural landscape where life revolves around the rhythm of nature. As the personal narratives within the film unfold, it prompts a reassessment of the interplay between tradition and modernity, economic growth and societal welfare, and the advancement of a nation versus the welfare of its populace.

The trailer notably showcases moments of tension between garment factory workers and Chinese management—a dynamic that may draw parallels to “American Factory,” the acclaimed 2019 Oscar-winning documentary directed by Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar. This documentary explored the dynamics within a Chinese-owned auto glass plant established on the grounds of a former GM truck factory in Ohio.

The documentary also delves into the displacement of Ethiopian farmers whose land is requisitioned for factory expansion, evoking poignant questions about their future. Tribeca Festival’s Deborah Rudolph describes the film as a nuanced narrative that juxtaposes the vanishing countryside with the industrial megaplex symbolizing progress and profit. It probes the complex interplay between tradition and modernity, progress and the well-being of a nation and its people, offering intimate insights into individual lives affected by these shifts.

Following its premiere at Tribeca, “Made in Ethiopia” will be screened internationally at Sheffield DocFest in the U.K. and DC/DOX in mid-June. The documentary, directed by Xinyan Yu and Max Duncan, is a collaboration between Hard Truth Films, Dogwoof, and Gobez Media, with Tamara Dawit, Xinyan Yu, and Max Duncan serving as producers. Xinyan Yu, with her extensive experience in international newsrooms, brings a unique perspective to the project, while Max Duncan’s award-winning documentary work adds depth to the storytelling.

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