December 6, 2018

Location Spotlight: Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an extraordinary land with much to offer the filmmaker who’s in search of the otherworldly.

Historically, Ethiopia has not been considered a film destination, but in recent years, it has grown is offerings and now has a vibrant film sector similar to that of Kenya. The country is a wealth of undiscovered cultures and locations and beckons filmmakers to explore a world of opposites – rushing rivers and arid desertscapes, cool forests, and the hottest inhabited place on earth: Dallol.

Locations of interest include Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches with their ancient facades, the incredible spectacle that is the Blue Nile falls, Fasilides Castle, Nechisar National Park, and the Siemen Mountains which are home to Gelada baboons. Another interesting place is the Lower Valley of the Omo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and prehistoric region near Lake Turkana. Here, the discovery of fossils has been of fundamental importance to the study of human evolution.

The local film industry is currently working towards becoming more competitive and attractive, and with over 100 films produced in Ethiopia annually, there is certainly a growing market for local productions. There are currently around 300 filmmakers and production companies operating in the region, and 39 cinemas in the capital of Addis Ababa. That said, local directors and producers still face many struggles in order to get their films in front of audiences.

Films Shot in Ethiopia

Some of the most recent productions to come out of Ethiopia are the post-apocalyptic surreal story of Crumbs (2015) and the beautiful, heart-wrenching Lamb (2015). Difret, released in 2014 and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, won the World Cinematic Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance, as well as the Audience Award at the 64th Berlinale in the Panorama section. Older hits set and shot in Ethiopia include The Athlete, Teza, The Best of Enemies, Time to Kill, Mother: Caring for 7 Billion, Town of Runners, and A Walk to Beautiful.

Filming on Location

There are no set fees o film incentives at present in Ethiopia, however locations, local talent and support crew are generally inexpensive. Enough time should be given for local fixers to liaise with regional governing bodies who may charge location feels. Locations in national parks are generally higher than average, particularly for aerial shoots. These require pilots with flight permits from the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority. The best time to shoot during clear, sunny days is from January to March, with the rainy season running from April to September.

Although the country has a small pool of local directors, videographers and stills photographers Kenya is the closest place for sourcing key crew from abroad. Customs can take a while, according to local fixer Zabalon Beyene. “Have your locations manager wait with a customs clearance paper in hand for the crew’s arrival. If not, the crew will lose at least a day sorting customs clearance,” he says. Malaria precautions are also important, as is the need to stay hydrated in hot regions.


105 350 020 (July 2017 estimate, CIA World Factbook)


Ethiopia’s climate is mild and tropical, with average temperatures in the highlands and major cities like Addis Ababa below 20°C, and exceeding 30°C in the lowlands.

Average Annual Temperatures

Average Annual Sunlight Hours

Average Annual Rainfall



Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is the main access point, with a number of other commercial and connecting airports serving the region. Airlines include:

  • United
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Avianca Brasil
  • Air China
  • South African Airways
  • Air Europa
  • Air India
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Kuwait Airways
  • EL AL Israel Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways)
  • SAS


Ethiopia Tourism Organisation




Firew Ayele | Across Abyssinia

Tel: +251 913 497 607/+251 118 503 923



Hridas Saudamad | Prepare2Go

Tel: +251 115 540 79



Israel Seoane | Independent Filmmaker



Solomon Abrha | Independent Fixer

Tel: +251 912 623 170


Yared Tefsa | Hahu Film Production

Tel: +251 930 491 280/+251 937 926 000


Yohannes Feleke | Independent Filmmaker and Fixer

Tel: (+1) 202 403 9226 (USA) / +251 911 378 976 (Ethiopia)


Zablon Beyene | Zab Tours Ethiopia

Tel: +251 118 608 564

Email: /


ZeroShama Media

Tel: +251 929 003 295