Netsanet Tjirongo is an independent filmmaker, community organizer and Director of Education at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle. “We’ll be hosting the Local Sightings Festival from Sept. 15 to Sept. 24 with an excellent lineup, terrific live performances and some fantastic workshops!” Learn about Netsanet Tjirongo…
Hometown: Windhoek, Namibia
First job: Waitress at Benihana
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: By any body of water with some good friends, karaoke bars, trying to coax my stubborn little dog into the water at one of the many dog beaches around the city, checking out a live show or a film.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Growing up as an African immigrant, I had a limited choice of preordained career to choose from: doctor, lawyer or engineer. My parents were both economists and like most parents, wanted me to have a better life than they did. So while I was obsessed with film and literature, I knew the closest I would ever get to my favorite festivals would be as an audience member. But, after a personal tragedy, I realized that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life hating what I did to please others. I chose me. After college, I quit drinking, moved to Seattle and began working in film. This summer, almost a decade later, I got to attend the Tribeca Film Festival, not as an audience member, but as a filmmaker.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: I think that my imposter syndrome manifested itself mostly with my fear of failure. I was absolutely terrified that any mistake I made, regardless of how inexperienced I was, meant that I had no business calling myself an artist. I didn’t take the risks that I should have, advocated for myself in the ways that I could have, and didn’t grow as a filmmaker as a result. Then lockdown happened, and for the first time, I had a long time to think about what I wanted. I won’t lie and say that my imposter syndrome is completely gone but it doesn’t have power over me anymore.
Someone who inspires you and why: My mother. She was radical, outspoken and unapologetically herself in a country that didn’t allow women to be any of those things. She instilled the values in me that I still hold today around liberation, capitalism, community and perseverance.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Figure out what your purpose is, and make it something that is greater than yourself. That way, when you find yourself being the only one that looks like you in the room, on the panel, on the set or above the line, you can stay grounded. And, have fun! Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a privilege to do what you love.
Favorite quote: “To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves, that the line stretches all the way back, perhaps to God; or to Gods. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die. The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before.” –Alice Walker
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I don’t have a permanent accent. My family moved so frequently between continents during my childhood that now, within months of moving somewhere new, my accent will slowly begin to shift.
What makes someone fabulous: Being authentically, unapologetically, themselves. Double points for a great outfit.