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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
14 Years in the making--Teza is an impressive journey through the history of Ethiopia from the fall of the last emperor, Haile Selassie I, in 1974, to the fall of the Derg, a maoist junta, in 1991. The film touches on a wide range topics -- love, forgiveness, revolution, genocide to establish a vanguard party, racism in Europe against immigrants, children of expats, the idealism and displacement of Ethiopia's first college graduates(Addis Ababa University was founded in 1968), and finding ones own path in life after disruptions .
Gerima's directing has pushed the movie to tell many stories at once. In a way, he is able to selectively speak to Ethiopians, countries with similar histories and the western audience. Literally, the filming stitches together the threads of Anberber's life. However, on a more subtle note, the story is told in many ways.
Much of the Amharic soliloquies are presented in, Sem enná Werq (Wax and Gold), literary device of double entendre. Subtitles cannot capture the poetry or symbolism.
The visual symbolism draws strongly on the agrarian culture of Ethiopian. A Cambodian friend, who lived through the Khmer Rouge, came up to me at the end of the movie in tears and said it was the most powerful film she has watched. My guess is that many people from countries with similar histories or those who have spent time in small farming towns will find the symbolism more powerful.
More explicit symbols are explained by characters in the film through dialogue. These are no less powerful but will be easier connections for those in the west with little experience with revolutions.
Overall, I am very impressed that the complexities of this work were able to fit into a cohesive story. There is something to be found in this movie for everyone. Be advised that this story is closer to tragedy than drama. It is great for those looking for a serious film to think about. This is not date movie material.
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