March 7, 2009

TEZ – an African movie about peace

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 1:57 pm

from the movie...about peace and Red Terror

from the movie...about peace and Red Terror

OUAGADOUGOU –Awinning African director Haile Gerime has won the African Oscar – Etalon d’Or de Yennenga (Golden Stallion of Yennenga) -, for the movie “TEZA” about the Megistu Haile Mariam regime’s ( 1974-1991) repression of political dissidents and the population at large.

The director won the prize on 7 March 2009, Saturday, at the 40th anniversary of the pan-African FESPACO film festival in Burkina Faso. Various sources report that the movie was praised by judges for its poetry, depth, and cultural insights.

“The message of the film is peace,” Selome Gerima, associate producer of the film and sister of the director said. The synopsis of the movie tells us about a young Anberber, in 1970,  who returns to Ethiopia as a post-graduate from West Germany . Full of hope and inspiration, he wants to give something back in his homeland, but ends up disillusioned, desperately grappling with his own foreignness and that of his beloved Ethiopia. Anberber finds his own escape in memory, flashing back to a childhood before the current war had ravaged his village’s sense of cohesion. Drawing both on ancient oral storytelling and on the dream-narrative style he used in Sankofa, Gerima builds a portrait of Anberber through both his present struggles and interior reminiscences. These recollections are not simply personal; they also encompass the collective memory of Ethiopia, which includes the legacy of Italy’s imperial presence.

The movie was shot in Gerimas hometown of Gondar in northwest Ethiopia, and included the locals. Village cast were integral to the project for the three months of filming and it is said that many had experienced the Red Terror of Mengistu regime.

The attitude to winning awards and becoming famous has Gerima a bit worried. He is on record to having said: “My name is more known than my work,” he told, a website about Ethiopia. “In Africa, you just make four, five, or six films and you are renowned. That is like a mockery [of] our talent.” Throughout his career Gerima has struggled for funding and been ignored by Hollywood, yet he has not stopped filming. When he found he could not get his films distributed, he founded a distribution company. When video rental chains refused to stock his films, he opened a video shop. When no theaters would carry his films, he rented out theaters across the country and presented the films himself. “We feel we are making our last stand in the cultural struggle–that is the struggle to make our own image”. (

Mengistu is currently exiled in Zimbabwe.

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