31 Aug 2018
Negus explores the convergence of history, myth and magic through the complex and competing legacies of Ethiopia’s last emperor Haile Selassie I. In Italy during the fascist rule of Mussolini, Selassie was portrayed as a black devil, justifying Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. During the same period the religion of Rastafarianism was emerging in Jamaica and claiming Selassie as their living God and the black Christ resurrected. Negus is powered from the void between these two irreconcilable realities.
Lee 'Scratch' Perry - godfather of dub music and an architect of the foundational sounds of reggae - takes on a double presence in the film: lurking as a spiritual ghost over the Black Ark, his former recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica, that he burned down in the 80s, and as master of a ritual fire ceremony performed in Italy to re-invoke the spirit of Ethiopia's last emperor.
The film follows a circular structure and its locations (Italy, Ethiopia and Jamaica) are constantly mixed. Its interwoven form insists that the trajectories of communities, ideologies and mythologies are never one-way vectors, but always exist in the complexity of infinite feedback and recourse.