So, Helen, you pretty much had an eye for style and what it needed to be in the film?
Helen: Not even necessarily what it needed to be in the film. I just wanted to see an edgy look for my character. I didn’t know how everybody else was going to do it, but I just was like, I want my character to be funky and edgy.
In your real day-to-day life, are you a glam girl or are you more dressed down?
Helen: On an everyday basis, I’m not as up to par as my character (laughs). I mean, that’s just on a day-to-day, but you know, when it’s time to get done up, I’ll get done up. I may throw on some leggings, some Uggs, a cute little top and call it a day as long as my hair is cute–I won’t do too much on a regular day.
Dope. I like it though. You can glam it up when you need to. Yonie, with the “I am Ethiopia shirts, is it the same kind of message that you’re trying to send in this film?
Yonie: Yeah, I just wanted some type of statement that kind of embodied pride. Really, I wanted to stay consistent–have the t-shirts and the logo stay consistent with the movie which is pretty much just creating an identity. I think that with everybody that migrates here, they find that they have to adapt to this society. Foreigners that come here kind of adapt, and I think there’s a risk of kind of losing an identity. And [growing up] I never saw anything mainstream, movie or magazine or whatever, that showed any specific identity of someone like me as first generation. So that’s what I’m trying to do, create an identity. “I Am Ethiopia,” was just consistent with the identity I see myself having.
And being proud of it! When are you guys going to start going on tour for the film?
Yonie: I’m looking to have it start up in April, early May. We have been approached by several colleges. We’re going to be doing a world tour, but in terms of what dates and cities? [That's] yet to be determined. But I definitely plan on hitting any city that has any Ethiopian community.
Helen: It’s not even only Ethiopians that are in it. I have a following that has been asking me about the movie who aren’t Ethiopian that are interested in watching it. And everybody would be able to relate to it.
Yonie: This is a very independent movie, and it was very non-traditional in terms of how we were doing it. You know, guerilla rehearsals. A lot of times, an hour on the day of initial shooting would really be rehearsal. [The cast] did their thing. Why the comedy? Comedy is universal. If you’re able to do it, and you’re able to do it with a subject matter, I think it’s a lot easier to kind of communicate and also to open up people’s perspective.
For sure. If you make somebody laugh, you can get your message across.