While most of his peers are leaving the village, the 25 year old Ethiopian Abebe decides to stay put.

Staying Put. A film based on true stories.

(80/90 min.)

Abebe lives in Lalibela, a small, high-altitude town situated in Northern Ethiopia. Many young people, like him, leave for Addis Abeba or beyond. Abebe wants to stay. He decides to go on a pilgrimage to Gishen Mariam. In this story we follow this journey through his perspective, his thoughts and his experiences. How it is to live between his ancient culture and the ever-changing modern world. A quest for a meaningful way of life.

Main characters

Director Nico has known Abebe since he was 15 years old. At that time he was homeless and lived as a shoeshine boy. Now he is living on a piece of land that he inherited from his mother. He has neither a job nor money. In his quest as a young man – Who am I? What do I want? What can I do with my life? – he finds comfort in his culture and religion. He is a serious, sincere and religious young man. Some shrewder types may think he is just naïve.

“I don’t need money to become a millionaire. I don’t pray for this. I want to be like the holy King Lalibela (12th century). Not to become King but to help poor people like he did. This is my dream.”

Abebe is an idealist.

Wogen is the opposite of Abebe, pragmatic and fairly opportunistic. He lives from day to day, is less serious about life, most of all makes jokes about it and likes to provoke.

He is the jester of a group of young men who hang about in Lalibela.

“I love Africa. I don’t care. Today I have food, tomorrow friends have. We will eat together. This is African life !!” 


Both Abebe and Wogan want to continue living in their birthplace, contrary to many of their friends who have left for Western countries. Together with Abebe and Wogen, we travel through the high altitudes of Northern Ethiopia and discover what life is like in this remote and rural region. For small town boys Abebe and Wogen, life outside their hometown is mostly unknown territory.

We see how the younger generation, friends of Abebe and Wogen, struggle with the possibility of leaving and we meet people in remote parts who probably never will leave their country.

We travel through the vast land where people mainly live in a traditional way; small farmers, monasteries, the ancient rock-cut monolithic churches, yet also passing through the more modern and rougher cities.

The pilgrimage ends on top of the mountain near the church Gishen Mariam, where annually tens of thousands of pilgrims gather.

The journey evolves into an inner quest for their roots and ancient culture. What is, in their view, the importance of this life and what possibilities does it offer them? How to build a meaningful life?

Teaser Staying Put (2 min)


In a mix of feature film and documentary, we travel through the country. Abebe and Wogen play themselves and improvise on the situations. Abebe, as the pilgrim, looking for sense and meaning and The Jester Wogen, who as a little devil on Abebe’s shoulder sees what Abebe is seeing. He tests Abebe’s conscience, puts things into perspective and teases him, appearing suddenly and then disappearing again.

Through acted and improvised scenes, the film shows how Abebe experiences the journey, his inner world, dreams, memories from the past etc.

During the peregrination, Wogen keeps Abebe informed of any gossip or anything happening back home in Lalibela. Did Fre, a friend of Abebe and owner of a small shop where young people get together, manage to marry that Norwegian man?

In reality and in the film, it will be a tough trek, during which confrontations will not be avoided. A purifying journey that will show frustrations, total despair about life, but also the fun and the pleasure of living in this country.

Staying Put, a film with a magical, realistic impact.

Care and give to this project. 

'Beggars are those who serve God'  Abebe

It will be a personal, authentic film, into which the makers will put their heart and soul. 100% effort and 100% crowdfunding is in this regard a must. We have 100% effort. Moreover, film equipment and other necessities are already being sponsored. Apart from the private contribution that the makers have made and the €10.000 crowdfunding we will still need more budget for the shooting (traveling, local help, transalations etc.) and for post-production.

Two shooting periods are planned.

This film project is being supported in word and deed by:

BiraBiro Films, Filmhuis Den Haag, Humanity House, Movies that Matter....

Producer is Stichting Filmstad

The Makers

Nico Bunnik, director, producer

is an experienced filmmaker. Besides his own films, he works regularly on other film productions and has been working on several in Africa so he knows what awaits him. Nico is an expert in improvising. Unexpected situations can be given added value because of this. Nico was educated as a film maker at the Cine workshop of the Vrije Academie in The Hague.

His last film ‘Atla’, set in the Sinai desert, is a full-length documentary and has been screened at many film festivals. (e.g. PEK, Nederlands Film Festival, ECU, Split)

In this film, two Bedouins, a white woman and two heavily packed camels, travel through an endless landscape.

‘They keep going further, as meaningless as it is irrevocable. This is not Waiting for Godot, but Going to Godot’, written in Dutch newspaper NRC

Abebe, Wogen, Abush, Fre…

are the young people in Lalibela, the actors, the storytellers and the inspirators of this film, but above all themselves. Abush is Abebe’s best friend. They are very close and share a lot. A very different dynamic from when Abebe is with Wogen. Fre is the owner of a small shop, where many young people get together. For Abebe, she is like a mother. She wants to marry a western man.

Marion van der Gun, editor

Marion has worked as an editor on many films, feature films as well as documentaries.

Tinus Holthuis, advice and support

Tinus is a good friend of Nico, always knows how to motivate. He is filmmaker, gaffer, light designer…

BiraBiro Films, advice and support

BiraBiro Films is Daniel Taye Workou and Mesereta Argaw. They live in Addis Abeba. From their Ethiopian perspective and as experienced film producers, they will give a lot of valuable feedback and help in making this film.

Jan Willem van Dam, advice and support

Jan Willem is above all filmmaker himself.

Stichting Filmstad


€15 or more

The generous donator

Thank you for your support. You will be updated through the newsletter.

You will receive a temporary link to the film.

€25 of meer

The Film lover

You will receive a temporary link to the film. You'll be mentioned in the credits.

€50 or more

The Cinephile

You will be invited to the festive premiere in the Filmhuis Den Haag and get a link to the film. 

€150 or more

The Film collector

You can choose either a poster of the film or a still from the film (photo print on A4) and a permanent link to the film. You will also be guest of honour at the festive premiere, invitation for two. 

€250 or more

The Financier

You’ll be mentioned in the credits and on the poster as Executive Producer, You will be guest of honour at the festive premiere, with the guest of your choice..

(the dresscode is 'Producer').

€300 or more

The Filmmaker

One day post-production and/or guidance with your film project in deBun Studio. Colorgrading, VFX, editing, sound, mixage (5.1), DCP.

Questions, several days, please contact us! 

€500 or more

De Sponsor

€500 or more and/or in-kind support. You are sympathetic to the project and it matters to you. You support the film’s aim and you want to link your name to it or stay anonymous. Let us know, most probably your wishes and ours will meet somehow.

€500 or more

The Explorer

An invitation to stay at Abebe’s lodge on his beautiful piece of land for 4 days (in a private lodge for two, flight exclusive) and immerse into local Ethiopian life. Abebe and Wogen would love to guide you. In and around Lalibela you can visit the famous, monolithic churches and monasteries.

For the hardcore explorers, you can go trekking through this untouched mountainous region with its spectacular nature, remote villages and monasteries. We will help and advise you. Lalibela can be reached easily by air. By road, your voyage of discovery will already start in Addis Abeba.

We expect to see you at the premiere and would love to hear your stories and experiences.

No consideration

I would like to support this project and don’t need to receive a consideration in exchange


Support this project if you think it’s important to have young African people represented in a different way. We read and hear a lot about immigrants, through the media, who flee from Africa to Europe. But how about young people who choose not to leave their homeland and stay behind, while around them many risk the crossing? This film gives you an image of the ones who stay. Young people who search for their life's path. 

(Please include your email address!!)

Stichting Filmstad,

IBAN: NL74 INGB 0000 1245 94  



is successful finished at 30 Dec 2019

€10.180 donated, 130 funders

or card:

Staying Put

a film in the making

Nico Bunnik

Director / producer

Stichting Filmstad

Hoge Zand 36 B

2512 EM Den Haag, the Netherlands

'Looks amazing. A stunning continent and a beautiful contrast

of identities and lifestyles. Can't wait to watch it..'

'To make progress, any country would need motivated people. When all leave, it will be an empty country without future.'

'amazing, beautiful project.. a personal approach..

touching, important story.. more reactions

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