Gebriele Ayana is a 19-year-old film director from Ethiopia. Ayana recently released her first film, Keeping the Fire Bright—a documentary focused on her time as a homeless teenager, striving to keep her passion for life and for the arts through difficult times.
Keeping the Fire Bright is loosely inspired by Cameroonian singer, Tiken Jah Fakoley. Ayana discovered Tiken Jah Fakoley’s music during a dark period of her life, and his message of perseverance resonated with her deeply.
“He sings to tell you to keep your fire bright, to keep your spirit bright. When I was in a dark space, I really tuned into his music and, now, I feel like that’s what I’m about—keeping my fire bright. I have an orange aura of energy” explained Ayana.
Ayana solely directed, produced and edited Keeping the Fire Bright. She began productions in July, 2018, and spent almost five months working on the film. The first screening was held on Friday, November 30, to a crowd of her peers and other creatives. Through this film, Ayana hopes to inspire other minority creatives to continue to pursue allof their dreams, despite adversity.
“I want people to look at it and realize that they can do anything and accomplish anything..this world shits on Black artists. Our body is in the material world, and it sells, but we aren’t paid for it. We are stripped of platforms that should be available to us…Being a black femme, too, I want that to be recognized, and for people to realize that they can do it, because we do it every day even if we are not being sponsored” said Ayana.
Ayana plans to have two more screenings of Keeping The Fire Bright before releasing it online. Additionally, Ayana plans to release many other films, including one she is currently working on, The Aquarius Generation, focused now on sharing the stories and struggles of other artists she has encountered. In the future, Ayana hopes to start her own television company, centered on showcasing Black creativity.
When initially producing this film, Ayana received some negative feedback. Her friends told her that she was not being vulnerable enough and truthful enough in the retelling of her experiences as a homeless teenager.
“I was positive a lot, but I was also really going through it…”
Yet, as she delved deeper into her truth, Ayana found the voice she needed to accurately share herself with others.
“…as I matured, I figured out how to show that in the film…I am bold enough to embrace it now.”