Digital Story Critique #1: Tadesse-Kippie Kanshi, Gedo Region, Southern Ethiopia
*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver. This is the first post within a series of critiques on digital stories that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.
This week’s critique is on a short film titled “Tadesse-Kippie Kanshi, Gedo region, southern Ethiopia” that I found at StoryCenter.org. This story was produced in June of 2014 in a workshop led by Silence Speaks, with logistical support from the Association for Research and Conservation of Culture, Indigenous Knowledge, and Cultural Landscape. I chose this story because it is about food, family, and tradition. These are themes that relate quite closely to my own for this course – a self-reflection on my life so far, through food.
This story is a short film that shows a man named Tadesse-Kippie Kanshi of the Gedo region in southern Ethiopia, talking about a staple crop called ensete. The film opens with Tadesse-Kippie explaining what ensete is and how he helped his mother prepare it for the first 15 years of his life. Eventually, his mother endured a very difficult birth and had to stay at a hospital run by missionaries. Upon her return, she declared herself a Christian and despite being illiterate, she brought home a bible and told Tadesse-Kippie that she wished more than anything for him to read it to her someday. Tadesse-Kippie then makes it his main goal in life to learn to read, a goal that eventually leads him to become a botanist who learns to understand how the ensete crop can not only be used to feed the people, but to also preserve their way of life.
To critique this story, I used the following traits from Jason Ohler’s “Assessing digital stories, new media narrative“: 1.) story, 2.) flow, organization, and pacing, and 3.) presentation and performance.
- Story – The story worked incredibly well. The structure of the narration kept me wondering what the main theme or transformation was. In the beginning, I got the sense that the story would be more about Tadesse-Kippie’s mother’s conversion to Christianity. But in the end, it was about Tadesse-Kippie’s relationship with the ensete plant. His relationship with the plant comes full circle in that through the cultivation and preparation of the plant, Tadesse-Kippie forms a strong bond with his mother, so much so that he will do whatever it takes to be able to read her the bible. By learning to read, he becomes a botanist who then learns how the ensete plant can help his country and his culture in more ways than one. The ensete plant is present in Tadesse-Kippie’s personal roots, his family roots, and his everyday life.
- Flow, organization, and pacing – The story had a smooth flow and was very well organized as it was told through a timeline perspective. Tadesse-Kippie talks of his childhood with his mother and then briefly goes through his transformation to an adult. For such a short film, the pacing was just right. The image below shows the five essential story elements, all of which are present in this short film.
- Presentation and performance – The story itself was presented through images, short video clips, and voice narration with subtitles. The images were most impactful for me as I prefer to see visuals at all times instead of just listening to audio. The filmmakers were able to use the images in places where filming was just not possible. The performance aspect played a major role as the performer in the video was Tadesse-Kippie himself. Having him in the video and as the one telling the story was much more important and effective than having someone else read a script of Tadesse-Kippie’s story.
This digital story was very well done and I would be very much inclined to watch more about Tadesse-Kippie’s story. I also appreciate having learned about the ensete crop and how it helps the Ethiopian country and its people. Food is at the root of all cultures, but not many people appreciate that the way that Tadesse-Kippie surely does.