King Lear is one inspiration for Ethiopian-Israeli director’s debut feature.

With themes of immigration and the family, Ethopian-Israeli director Bazi Gete’s first feature Red Leaves — about an Ethiopian man living in Israel who sells his house after the death of his wife and moves between his children’s homes — is inspired partly by Gete’s personal experiences and partly by Shakespeare’s King Lear. “In [Lear] the immigration is internal, from one home to another; the protagonist never leaves the country. The play inspired me to write an immigration story, dealing with subjects such as generation gaps, family life and my personal story,” says Gete, whose family emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel when he was eight years old, going through refugee camps in Sudan.

“Although 30 years has passed, in my eyes, an immigrant stays an immigrant,” says Gete, who admits his attitude has changed during the film-making process. “I began to understand there is also the opportunity to change and become someone else,” he says.

Other than lead actor Debebe Eshetu, Gete cast non-actors in his debut feature, which he shot in a documentary style mainly in Tel Aviv. “Each actor knew where he was going and we simply rolled and kept on filming through the scene. I think it was a wise choice. This almost documentary cinematic style serves the film’s voice and preserves its authenticity,” Gete says.

Continuing with his Shakespearean theme, he is now writing a script called Other Love, this time based on Romeo And Juliet and set in south Tel Aviv.

It centres around a tragic love story between a Jewish Ethiopian widow and a young, non-Jewish, Eritrean worker.

“Like in King Lear and Red Leaves, this film also deals with the unhappiness and sorrow that people cause, and the dangers that lie in prejudices and racism,” says Gete, whose short Medium Rare screened at Jerusalem Film Festival in 2010. “The beautiful Cinematheque overlooking the city walls is a great stage,” adds the director.