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When Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was overthrown in August, 1975, by Colonel Mengistu, sixty of his cabinet members were executed and he was never seen again. Yet there remained the belief among many Rastafarians that he was still alive. They continued to worship him as the Lion of Judah and considered him the Black Christ.
The Emperor's Birthday, using old footage and interviews, sifts through the sequence of events that led to a Rastafarian movement in Ethiopia, England and the Caribbean. It shows that the movement was both political and spiritual. Curiously, the Emperor was mostly indifferent to them.
In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. Haile Selassie appealed unsuccessfully to the League of Nations for help. In reaction to this abandonment, there was an outpouring of support for him from people of African descent in the West. Marcus Garvey from Jamaica declared Africa for Africans and urged repatriation. Jazz in Harlem echoed with a longing for Africa.
The film traces the preparations being made for the celebration of the Emperor's one hundredth birthday. We meet Rastas who had made arduous journeys from all over the world, and learn of the struggle with poverty faced by the ones who have settled in Ethiopia.
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