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IC Documentarians

Exposer of Truth

As a teenager in Ethiopia, Gossa Tsegaye ’76 had his own radio show, and at the tender age of 16 he was for six weeks the guest host of a variety show on the capital city of Addis Ababa’s only TV station. The young man was hooked.

A few years later, as a television-radio major attending Ithaca College on a partial scholarship, he worked hard at his studies while always holding down two or three jobs—including one at the BBC’s Good Morning Africa during his London semester. After graduating he went on to receive his master of professional studies degree from Cornell University, and then returned to IC as a mentor and tutor in the Opportunity Program. In 1991 he was hired at the Park School to teach in the TV-R department. Two years later, the same year he became a U.S. citizen, he was made a full-time faculty member.

Bill Truslow

“I always compare my journey to March of the Penguins,” he says, perhaps unable to resist a reference to his favorite art form and the popular 2005 documentary. “I’ve been protected and encouraged by a community of people who are more experienced than I am—who enabled me to succeed in this country.”

Tsegaye specializes in teaching media and television production, and gives a lot back to the College not only via teaching and mentoring young filmmakers but also through service on committees and the Faculty Council, of which he is currently chair.

As a documentary filmmaker, Tsegaye particularly focuses on telling the stories of people who might otherwise go unnoticed. Tsegaye has made documentaries about many such subjects, including migrant workers in King Ferry, not far from Ithaca (Smile in the Wind), immigrants in nearby Lansing, salt mining in Tompkins County, the residents of a local street (Dream Street on Buffalo Hill), and most recently a film called The Jungle’s Edge, about an area along the railroad tracks on Ithaca’s west side where homeless people gather.

Television, says Tsegaye, is an important tool that can be used for positive change. Used wisely, he says, “It can be the best instrument in the world—or used for disseminating hate. I teach it, I live it, and I love it.”

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