In Ethiopia, it is often said that “an artist in exile is like a fish out of water.” Despite this belief, a growing number of Ethiopian artists, musicians, writers, actors and journalists are fleeing the violence and repression that is spreading in Ethiopia. Many have landed in Toronto, thanks to Canada’s refugee policy. Safe from physical persecution, they must begin the emotional and spiritual struggle that comes from being cut off not only from the community and people they love the most, but also from elements of life that gave them purpose. Famous at home, they have become nobodies in exile. In Tizita, three Ethiopian musicians reflect on what they have left behind, how they made it to Canada and how they are trying to rebuild their identities — to become new fish in new water. The film follows the musicians as they gather to play music drawn from the unique Ethiopian traditional pentatonic musical scale. The scale contains different combinations that are tied to specific themes — “tizita” is associated with songs and stories built around memories. The film is directed by Gezahegn M. Demissie, an Ethiopian documentary filmmaker who is also a refugee in Canada, trying to reinvent himself.

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