My name is Mereb Estifanos. I was born in Arareb, Sahel, in 1983. My father and mother are both EPLF fighters. My father’s name is Estifanos Derar, and my mother is Negesti Wolde-Mariam. I completed my high school studies in Asmara.
What did you aspire to become when you grew up?
When I was a student I used to be a good volleyball player. But internally I wanted to become a dancer and singer.
How did you become an actress?
It was by simple chance. In 2002, while I was a student in grade 11, Captain Fessehaye Lemlem (the screenwriter for the film “Fermeley”) called me and asked me to act in a film. This was very sudden for me. Then he told me to meet him at Cinema Asmara. I met him and Mr. Michael Emahazion (Jende, the veteran artist.) They asked me to act in the film they were producing. Then I accepted and said I’d try it. I started acting as a reserve with a second actress. It was hard for me to work with great artists like Gizyenesh Menges. I was both shy and scared. Finally, with hard work I was chosen to play the character. My partner Yonatan (Tan-tan) encouraged me a lot. The film opened my acting career for me. I want to thank Captain Fessehaye Lemelem.
When you were working in the film “Fermeley,” what were your feelings? And what feedback did you get from viewers?
Since it was my first acting experience I was shy and afraid. But I think I did well. I got good reviewers from the audience saying that I did well.
How do your parents see your acting career?
They see it positively. My father and mother especially encourage me a lot. They remind me to keep the time of my rehearsal, etc.
What kind of character do you like to play?
In all the films I have acted so far, I play the role of a girl who is loved by others. But I would like to play the role of a lover. I think love is relevant to boys and girls equally, so I’d like to play the role of a lover. But I think the choice really belongs to the directors or others.
What efforts do you make to improve your professional skill
I try to learn from people (actors, producers and actress, etc) who are experienced in the field. I read books and watch many films (local and foreign).
Have you taken any courses to improve your skills?
Only once. The course was given by the Department of Cultural Affairs, PFDJ for three months, in Asmara.
How much do you love this job? In how many films have you acted so far?
I love it very much. I have acted in more than ten films. Including; “Hareg,” “Fermeley,” “Werasi Kidan,” “Gezie,” “Mezgeb,” “Shalom,” “Azmarino,” “Ketali Sehbet,” “Fekri Tsa’iru,”…
Can an actor/actress make a living from acting?
I think that would be difficult, because you can’t earn enough through acting. It is only an occasional work. We actors do not have a monthly salary, so I think it’s not possible.
What is the role of women in the development of the Eritrean film industry, so far? And what is the reason?
In most of the films produced in our country these days, I don’t believe women are as active as they should be. Their participation is fundamental. The reason they are not active is, for various reasons. They are doing their part, but not enough. One reason could be the pressure by parents. In others, while the women have the initiative they don’t get the opportunity.
Why do you think there is parental pressure not to act for females?
So far our society’s understanding about films or plays has been negative. But now it’s certainly improving. In the past, people who take part in arts or plays/films were considered as bad or immoral people. Sometimes people think that the character you play in the film is your real personality. So, I think these could be some of the reasons. But I believe acting is just like any other work.
In our films, there are not many female screenwriters or directors. What is the reason?
First, I think it’s because there is not enough initiative on their part. Secondly, only a few believe they can do it and start. There is no reason why women cannot become screenwriters and film directors.
Do you plan to write or direct films?
I do try some writing. In the future I plan to write more. But concerning directing films, I’m too young and inexperienced for it. Maybe, later.
What do you think an actor needs to do to become good and play the role of the character given him/her perfectly?
The most basic is training (rehearsal). Personally, when I’m given a part to play I search for someone similar to that role. Then I watch her actions and other activities. Then I try it and train many times. So if you work hard and rehearse, I don’t see there’s any problem becoming the character. The main responsibility lies with the director.
What are your future plans?
I want to continue and grow in this profession of acting. I believe I need to work very hard in order to grow. If I could get some formal professional training it would be very helpful. I also want to take part in singing and dancing.
What is your advice to the youth concerning HIV/AIDS?
As has been stated repeatedly, you need to abstain or be faithful with a single partner. And for those who are HIV positive, let us show kindness and care for them.
What do you think is the role of the youth in the protection and building of the nation?
Although I was born in Sahel, I did not know much about national issues. I did not understand much what my parents used to tell me about the nation. But now I am mature and can understand much. So we the youth must work with all our ability in order to build and protect our nation and help it prosper.
Does a female actress face any challenges in particular?
Personally, I have not faced any problems related to my acting. I have a good, respectable working relationship with actors and directors.
What is the relationship and cooperation among you actors?
All the older and more experienced actors help, correct and support us during work.
Your role in the TV-serial “Hareg” (The Vine) was good. How did you face the task?
The work was very hard for me. As you know it’s a long serial film. So I had a lot to do including studying (memorize) the script, choose the costumes, etc. We spent a long time in rehearsal and shooting. In short the work was demanding. But through the hard work of the writer, director and all the others, we completed the work successfully.
Personally how did you like the character you were playing, “Feruz”? Why? And what about your character’s two separate “lovers” Tekhle and Daniel?
I really liked “Feruz,” because she was honest and wise. And she was steadfast in her principles and stand. But Tekhle was bad! He wanted to buy love through money and force. As for Daniel, he was the opposite of Tekhle.
How did you manage to produce the tears while acting?
Most of the time, I produced the tears from deep inside.
How do you evaluate the film (serial) “Hareg”? And which characters did you like most?
I think it was quite good. The complications in the story were interesting. I especially like the part about Tekhle and his mother. They were very close and supported each other well. They learned their lesson from their mistakes. And finally Feruz was rewarded for her patience and tolerance. The film was educational. I like Tekhle and his mother best.
Some people say that the film was ended suddenly and it should have been continued. What do you think?
Every film has to stop somewhere and can’t go on until the end. For some of the points, the viewer has to fill in by himself or herself. Some can make their own conclusions. My only regret is that for Daniel. His honesty and integrity should have been made more clear.
Do you have appreciations for anyone?
I thank my family for helping me to reach this level. I also want to thank artist Awel Said for supporting me in my career. Mainly I want to thank the public, young and old, for supporting me for my modest contribution and encouraging me. I hope to work hard and please the public with more deserving work in the future.
Which artist do you admire?
I admire all the artists in our nation. But especially I admire the veteran artists, Miakel Jende, Tekhlit Kugne, Atsbehet Abraha, Gizyenesh Menges. And from the younger artists, I admire: Alolo, Tekhlit Solmon, Hagos Suzinino, Weyni China, Beynesh Kiros, Makda Abraha. As for singers I admire, Dawit Shelan, Tesfay Mengesha, Temesgen Taniko, Helen Meles.
Whom do you want to emulate?
I admire Helen Meles and I want to be like her.
How is your health?
I am fine. No problem.
Any final words?
In our country the profession of acting is still in the rise. Similarly with music. I support the “Shingrwa” program (the search for new singers and dancers.) There are many talented young persons in the country, in the military and elsewhere, who can write, sing, act, etc. So I suggest someone, either the NUEYS, or other concerned authorities should explore and find these talented people in the military, the rural areas, etc. They would find many outstanding artists yet undiscovered.
In the acting field, I suggest that the actors, like other professionals or artists, be organized in a union or association and be paid regular salaries and given the chance and develop and grow.