Beles, the prickly fruit and summer favorite in the horn of the African country Eritrea, can withstand droughts and blossom in various types of land structures, mimicking the uniqueness of SF State’s cinema major, Sam Gebremiche.
Gebremiche, who also plays right wing for the soccer team, went back to his homeland Eritrea last summer to film a short movie called “Beles,” inspired by this interesting fruit, to share his childhood experiences.
“When I was little I used to collect the fruit called beles with my friends and sell them to help my family,” he said.
The prickly pear was often found in dangerous parts of Eritrea, which led Gebremiche to write, direct and produce his own five-minute film, showing people another side of Africa.
“I just wanted to capture that moment of kids going out into the wild and collecting this fruit while being in a dangerous area,” he said. “I also wanted to bring back some childhood memories of what I used to do. It’s just for me to look back it.”
The northeast country, Eritrea, is home to over 4 million people, and it was home to Gebremiche before 2011 when his mom decided to bring the family to the states to settle in Dublin, California. He was 11.
“My mom wanted me to not be part of that lifestyle that’s in Africa. To create something, be something, instead of being nothing … and to have a better life,” he said.
Gebremiche credits his mom for being his strongest inspiration in his life.
SAM GEBREMICHE POSES FOR A PORTRAIT IN SAN FRANCISCO ON TUESDAY, OCT. 24, 2017. (MITCHELL MYLIUS/GOLDEN GATE XPRESS)
“My mom is my biggest influence. She’s a single mom and she came to this country with nothing. She was still able to support me in anything I wanted to do,” he said. “I always think about that and making her proud.”
Gebremiche, who says soccer is his first love, fell in love with film after practicing soccer tricks and recording them to send to close friends, who said they saw potential.
“People started seeing that I was getting better with each video I would make, and I started to think this might be something I’m actually good at,” he said.
Coming from a different country, Gebremiche said that he taught himself soccer and film, and worked hard for everything he’s received. “Nothing was given to me. I came from a third-world country and I’ve worked for everything.”
He continued, “I’ve never got a scholarship to play soccer here. I worked hard for that. I’ve never had someone teach me filmmaking … I had to learn all that by myself to do what I love to do.”
Friend, teammate and roommate Nigus Solomon, who met Gebremiche during freshman soccer orientation three years ago, agrees. He sees the dedication and focus his friend has, especially when it comes to film.
“Anything Sam puts his mind on, he works really hard for, especially when it comes to videos. He cuts out all things that may distract him and focuses on getting better at what he wants to pursue in life,” the senior communication major said via email.
Natnael Getahun, who is also a close friend of Gebremiche, believes that anything put in front of Sam will not get in the way of his goals.
“I think Sam is very determined and obstacles don’t stop him,” Getahun said via email. “He also enthusiastically embrace[s] challenges.”
Gebremiche’s film, which will be screened in Jack Adams Hall on campus Oct. 30 at 6 p.m., showcases four characters — three young boys who will play himself and two friends, as well as an older woman to play his mom.
He bought all the equipment himself and had a plan to ask for donations, but decided to start a GoFundMe for the kids who helped make the film possible instead.
“My original plan was to ask people for donations, but that’s not me. I made a GoFundMe for the kids. My goal was not to make money off the kids that I’ve filmed, but to help them,” he said.
Gebremiche plans to pursue a career in film once he graduates and to submit his film “Beles” to a film festival once the finished product is complete.
“You got to start somewhere, and this is my starting point to doing something I love to do,” he said.