Yared Zeleke


Sunbirds is Yared Zeleke’s second feature, part of a coming-of-age drama/part road-trip thriller set in Africa’s Great Rift Valley with brave, brilliant, and beautiful Ethiopian women as the complex heroines. The film will be the first to depict both (climate) migration as well as culture clash from within the vastly diverse, complex continent. It will be a rare cinematic experience portraying the issue “colorism” with dark-complected young women as the protagonists—a demographic that remains grossly underrepresented in films. Sunbirds will be shot in the remote and vast Omo Valley of Ethiopia—a place scientists call the cradle of modern humanity and one of our planet’s last remaining pristine wilderness with intact tribal cultures.

Ethiopia is in a transitional period right now, as the nation leaves its traumatic past behind and fast forwards into the future. This homecoming is the time for Africans to redefine who they are for the world, and themselves. Sunbirds will be made within the conditions of a country trying desperately to pull out of poverty and transcend into something new. As a genderqueer Ethiopian-American, Zeleke is very proud to be part of that wave of change.

Yared Zeleke’s first feature, Lamb, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Zeleke’s second feature script, Sunbirds, was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and a San Francisco Film Society grant. The Sundance Institute is mentoring Zeleke through its FilmTwo Initiative.