Before reviewing, I should qualify that I had a specific purpose for watching this film, which was to find a movie or documentary that I could show to the Africa class that I teach, and one of our textbooks is an ethnography of south Ethiopia. I hoped Adwa would be a good historical introduction to the Ethiopian, Italian war. I was very disappointed, Perhaps my disappointment is related to my expectations for the film, and/or my orientation as a Westerner with a preference for linear, documented historical narratives.
The first 5-minutes of the film is images of drawings and paintings, with music overlaid. I can only presume these are Ethiopian drawings, and Ethiopian music, both of which "seem" to be depicting some kind of battle. The rest of the movie is a mixture of images of drawings, random images of scenery, random interviews with people who are not credited, and narrations that are not contextualized or sourced. The narratives often seem not to match the imagery. For example, narrative of a treaty that happened by a river, while the imagery is of cattle, and a many standing in front of a bunch of children. There is no attempt to connect the images to the narrative. The people interviewed, some sitting in chairs in offices, some standing in villages, could be anybody, from anywhere. We aren't told if they are history professors, former politicians, villagers who survived the war, or just hired actors. None of the historical narratives are sourced. None of the drawings are sourced--they could be from anywhere, from any time, about any battle--we just don't know from what is presented in this film. We don't know if any of the scenes are from Ethiopia, if they are old or new video, etc.
A previous reviewer talked about the film's "poetics." Perhaps if you want 90 minutes of free-form music, imagery and story, then this film might suit your needs. If you want a documentary you can trust to show students, or for a reliable "history" of the Adwa battle, I would look for alternatives to this film.
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