Rituals: beyond words

Rituals: beyond words is about the difficulty of articulating one’s ritual, spiritual and cultural identity. The film set is in an Anthropology class in a London university, with students from different nationalities – and thus with various cultural backgrounds.
The teacher’s plan for the morning’s class discussion was to show the students some video clips of ritual practices of different nations from around the world. However the projector fails to work and the teacher instead asks the students to use their imagination to attempt to describe a ritual with which they are familiar to the rest of the class.
Tsion, an Ethiopian-British girl, who has arrived late to the classroom, is randomly picked by the teacher to help the class to visualise an element of one of her ancestral practices that could be regarded as being a ritual and to explain its meaning. Totally unprepared for this task, Tsion looks flustered, becoming speechless. She closes her eyes and goes into a daydream.
Through her reverie, the audience, accompanied by spiritual music, travels to the atmospheric, mystical woodland of Ethiopia. The dream sequence in the woodland consists of a montage including going barefoot to fetch the water from the holy spring and an unidentified child putting incense on a burner.
In a continuation of her reveries, we see Tsion scattering freshly cut grasses and flowers in her house, which is filled with bellowing frankincense in preparation for the coffee ceremony. Again the audience sees montages of green coffee beans being roasted, grinded, brewed and solemnly savoured by communally-seated guests.
Throughout the film part in the house we hear mesmerising Christian spiritual music as well as an afternoon call for prayer.
Tsion awakes from her reverie, looking greatly at peace and composed, but unable to express to the class what she saw in her mind.
The opening shot of the film depicts the vibrant nature of London and in the classroom it also shows the multi-cultural aspect of London’s higher educational institutions.
The film is rich with layers of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds and includes a voice-over of poetic explanation throughout the dream sequences.

  • Mike Gebre-Yohanes
  • Mike Gebre-Yohanes
  • Mike Gebre-Yohanes
  • Tsionawit Fekadu
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 17, 2017
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Mike Gebre-Yohanes