The Ethiopian intellectual Anberber returns to his native country during the repressive totalitarian regime of Haile Mariam Mengistu and the recognition of his own displacement and ...
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The Ethiopian intellectual Anberber returns to his native country during the repressive totalitarian regime of Haile Mariam Mengistu and the recognition of his own displacement and powerlessness at the dissolution of his people's humanity and social values. After several years spent studying medicine in Germany, he finds the country of his youth replaced by turmoil. His dream of using his craft to improve the health of Ethiopians is squashed by a military junta that uses scientists for its own political ends. Seeking the comfort of his countryside home, Anberber finds no refuge from violence. The solace that the memories of his youth provide is quickly replaced by the competing forces of military and rebelling factions. Anberber needs to decide whether he wants to bear the strain or piece together a life from the fragments that lie around him.Written by
Venice Film Festival
An extraordinary film, dense and lyrical, sharply political and deeply personal. As in Sankofa, writer/director Haile Gerima moves between several worlds - not just 'Africa' and the Ethiopian diaspora in Europe, but also (as another reviewer has noted) between Ethiopias and Europes, temporally and geographically.
At times, these worlds merge effortlessly together; however, in certain scenes, the acting and staging seem rather stilted. For example, I found the Ethiopian scenes were always compelling, while some of the German scenes had characters merely saying their lines.
Gerima's use of flashbacks and flashfowards helps to weave together many narrative strands, not just the political commentary about Ethiopia's traumatic period under the rule of Mengistu. There is a genuine sense of optimism and celebration from the young Ethiopians (including Anberber and his best friend Tesfaye) as the rule of Selasie comes to an end tempered by the terrifying consequences for both men of their idealism and pragmatism, respectively. There is also a narrative of orphans, young men left parentless because of the civil war and Ethiopia's conflicts with Italy. In fact, the closing scene reminds me a lot of Rossellini's Rome, Open City. There is the subtle and not-so-subtle racism experienced by Ethiopians living in a Germany that moves, not unproblematically, from division to unification. There is the painful disintegration of family, seen in Anberber's relationship with is mother and brother, and their position within the community of the village.
Most tellingly, Gerima's nuanced look at patriarchy and politics in the metropolis and the countryside in Ethiopia provides tremendous context for the brutal armed conflict that erupts unexpectedly throughout the film.
And yet this is also an extraordinarily beautiful film with passages of bright hope and love. Gerima may be withering in his critique of various political systems, but he is not defeated by them. This is what makes Teza such a human film, one of best films I have seen about war and society.
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