Tamara Mariam Dawit’s investigation into a family mystery is headed to WORLD Channel. A press release has announced “Finding Sally” will debut on WORLD Channel as part of its “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” series next week. The documentary follows the Ethiopian-Canadian director as she uncovers the story of her aunt Selamawit “Sally” Dawit, a political activist and Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party member.
Featuring interviews with Tamara Mariam Dawit’s family and archival footage, “Finding Sally” “merges her familial history with the history and present-day politics of Ethiopia.”
The filmmaker grew up without ever being told about her aunt. Sally was born in Ethiopia and, after traveling around the world with her diplomat father and receiving an education in Canada, returned as a young woman. “She soon became involved in the politics and youth movements engulfing the nation. Her commitment to the plight of her nation and its people deepened after she met and fell in love with a communist leader of [the EPRP],” the press release details. “Joining the EPRP, Sally is soon involved in efforts to overthrow the government as a means to fix the rampant inequities and poverty in the country, and on the government’s Most Wanted List. Going underground to escape capture, Sally is never seen by her family again.”
“Finding Sally” is nominated for Best Documentary Program at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards.
“I have always been interested in Ethiopian history and specifically the activism and ideology of the student movement in the 1960s and ’70s. I’ve also been drawn to telling stories about Ethiopian women, but when you read about that period in Ethiopian history, you don’t hear much about women or their role,” Dawit told us when “Finding Sally” screened at Hot Docs 2020. “You just hear about women being around to do the cooking or because she was the wife or girlfriend of this person. So, it wasn’t until I found out about Sally and her role as an activist in the 1970s in Ethiopia that I really started to think about making a film about the revolution and the Red Terror that followed.”
The filmmaker continued, “With that in mind, I was also very specific and focused on only including Ethiopian women as characters and voices in the film. So that meant not interviewing any academics — all of whom were male — or any of Sally’s male comrades. Not because they didn’t have important and meaningful memories, but really because we never hear from women and we never view this history from a female perspective, and I think that was important.”
Dawit previously directed the short “Grandma Knows Best.” She runs the production company GobezMedia and manages the Creative Producers Training Program, which supports the development, training, and export of Ethiopian film and music content. She has produced documentary and digital content for CBC News, MTV, Radio-Canada, Discovery, NHK, and Al Jazeera, among other networks.
“Finding Sally” premieres on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org this Monday, April 12. Check out a teaser below.