ANDY SIEGE / writer & director
BETI AND AMARE

Official Selection of the 26th ANNUAL
PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

text JORGE PEREZCHICA

Born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985 to a pair of German aid workers, Andy Siege is a self-proclaimed “do-it-yourself” filmmaker and director. While spending his childhood growing up between Africa and Europe, he was often asked what he wanted to be as an adult. His answer? “Cowboy, and film director.”  His journey began at 13 years old after publishing his first short story in the German children’s magazine Der Bunte Hund. Siege has written and directed various short films and plays, and has since added the critically acclaimed Beti and Amare to his already impressive resumé. “I realized my dream,” he says.

Siege studied Creative Writing and Film in Canada and, in 2010, he earned a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. At one point, he started working towards a Masters Degree in Business, but quit after two months. Then, in 2011 he went to Ethiopia with his friend Pascal Dawson, who stars in Beti and Amare. “I kind of wrote the part for him,” said Siege. “He was my muse.” Actress Hiwot Asres stars as Beti, and choosing her was a gut instinct. “At auditions, 30 people showed up and [Asres] was the eighth person,” Siege said. “I just knew she was the one.”

Beti and Amare is a science fiction film with classic elements of beloved fairytales. The story centers around an Ethiopian girl who struggles to survive her war-torn country in 1936. It includes an introduction with archival footage, an alien who falls inexplicably from the sky, an unorthodox love story, and both color and black and white scenes. The film will leave you wondering, “What’s the meaning of the red flower?” It will make you cry. This and more is the result of Siege’s virtuosity. He does almost everything, including writing, directing, and producing on a micro-budget of $14,000. “I always wanted to be a filmmaker,” Siege said. “I wanted my first movie to be about issues that matter.”

Siege structured Beti and Amare in his head for three months in Ethiopia before spending two weeks writing the play. “I wanted to make a movie about opposites attracting,” he said. While traveling in Ethiopia, Siege was instantly influenced by his surroundings. “Ethiopia inspired me,” he said. “The landscape — it’s like walking through the Bible.” This  film has already been nominated for the Golden Saint George at the Moscow International Film Festival. “[Beti and Amare] was self-financed, and partly through Indie-GoGo,” said Siege. “I didn’t have the connections, I didn’t have the money. But I made something that competes with the big boys. I have several projects with bigger budgets, but no matter where I go in my career, I also want to make DIY films. It is possible because of the digital revolution. There are some huge changes happening. We are a part of a new renaissance… Years from now we will look back with nostalgia. So, I am extremely fortunate every day to be one of the pioneers.”

It took 30 days to film Beti and Amare, and the entire editing process took nearly a year and a half in post-production. “I had very little experience,” Siege admitted, “but I was learning as I went along. When you watch a lot of films you become an expert in the cinematic language. It’s not a language of words, it’s a language of images, with sequences and sound.” With an international team behind him in Germany, Siege was able to complete the film in all areas, even those he didn’t have experience in, including the music and special effects. “From beginning to end, people were engaged,” he said. “The post-production was the most collaborative. The way it was made was organic, like sculpting something.”

“While making Beti and Amare I always thought of it as a kind of love letter to my future audience,” Siege said. “It is a great feeling to have people come up to you after your screening with tears in their eyes because your movie touched them so much. I like making people cry — in a good way (laughs). It has also been great to connect with aspiring filmmakers who came to see my movie and were inspired by it.”

Siege’s intention for the film was to leave audiences with a universal message: Humans can become worse than monsters, and love will conquer all. “Storytelling is my thing,” he said. “I read a lot of fantasy.” As far as his vision for the style and content of the film, he said, “I wanted to combine my African roots with science fiction. I believe that sci-fi and magical realism are the same thing… I think the best art is created by madness and structured by reason.” Beti and Amare isn’t at the end of its journey; it still has many more festivals and nominations ahead.

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