Teza (2008) Poster


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Great film! Find something new every time.
Daniel Worku5 July 2012
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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A Very Good Film from a Great Director.
M_Rich0215 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Teza is beautifully photographed with a compelling story. The Screenplay, which Gerima wrote, Won an award in the Venice Film Festival. Through a series of flash-forwards and flashbacks Gerima's protagonist deals with complex issues about communism, revolution, racism, war, family and love. The film is long but the stories twists and turns do not make it seem long. Allegorical, musical, mystical and riveting can be used to describe the film. Gerima brings to mind directors such as Terrence Malick. The sights, sounds and smells of Ethiopia are captured in the film along with the pain that comes with the cost of war. The story, its subject matter and the way it was photographed all have heart, soul and conviction. Teza is a serious film, one of the heaviest and most layered films I've seen in a while. Gerima is a filmmakers filmmaker and I think everyone should see this film.
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Interesting, energetic and fun
bhbet7 May 2009
The film takes one on a whirlwind journey of what happened not just in Ethiopia but the generation of that age. It is a sharp commentary on communism's excess. After all this was the era during which Italy's Red Brigade and Germany's Baader-Meinhof were coming into their own terrorizing their home communities. A film that tries to do justice to such a deeply felt wound in the Ethiopian and world psyche can be forgiven a few excesses, chief among which is its length.

The film is artistically well thought out, and one can tell Gerima had plenty of time during those 14 years to develop his ideas and refine them. It does not try to be clever except when it combines the protagonists problems with racial problems then existent in Germany. And by the way, there was an Ethiopian man that was thrown off a balcony around that time. The only difference is that in real life the man did not survive the fall.

This film is not for shrinking violets or those in denial. And those whose revisionism allows them the myopia of seeing those times in a golden light will find the stark reality of those violent times too accessible to brush away or ignore.

In all it is a portrait of a place and point in time, of people, a country and ideals that are no longer with us.

Bravo to Gerima and all who help present this palpable, smoothly told(overall) story of a neglected and wasted time.
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Extraordinary film about war and society
ian-malcolm rijsdijk14 January 2015
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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The quest for freedom is marred by the hunger for power, creating a nightmare whose end lies in a complicated synthesis of past and present.
pmatabane5 October 2009
This film establishes Gerima as the artist-prophet and places him side by side with Sembene. He artistically presents the quest for African freedom in the post-colonial era as a human struggle for freedom pursued by people flawed by their humanity not by their race. Gerima gives dignity to the ideals of those thirsting for freedom AND democracy. The film redeems a generation that experienced many failures in their noble effects because they were late in seeing how the hunger for power creates monsters in all men and women irrespective of race or nationality or relationship to oppression. This is a film for serious, thinking people who want to make a positive difference in the world.
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In your face symbolism, lack of plot development and bad acting kill movie
Sam Teferi23 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Teza, written and directed by Haile Gerima, tells the story of an Ethiopian expatriate (Anberber) who witnesses and participates in the two major power transitions of Ethiopia in the last forty years. In the first power transition, the toppling of King Haile Selassie by the Derg Forces in 1974, Anberber and his best friend Tesfaye, both trained scientists, return to Ethiopia from Germany to join the revolutionary forces and "eradicate bacteria and death." The passion of the scientists to help their country is beyond disrepute- Tesfaye even abandons his wife and child in Germany. But not long after settling in Ethiopia, the revolutionary spirit sours for both Anberber and Tesfaye and climaxes with Tesfaye getting hacked to pieces by Derg cronies and Anberber defecting to East Germany. Thereafter, Anberber crosses the border to West Germany, where he is assaulted and thrown of a building by skinheads. Flash forward to 1990, another power transition in Ethiopia, and a one-legged Anberber returns to his family in a small village in Ethiopia. There, he falls in love and bears a child with a disgraced woman living under his mother's roof. The film ends on an optimistic note as Anberber, with the help of his mother and lover, recovers from acute amnesia and a scarred psyche and becomes a productive member of society as a teacher to the local school children.

Clearly, as a story, Teza has plenty of material to become a compelling film. However, under the heavy-handed direction of Haile Gerima, Teza becomes an exercise in over-symbolism, lack of plot development and community theater acting. The tendency to bludgeon the audience with symbolism, inter-cutting between the slaughter of a cattle and the murder of Tesfaye for example, has been the signature of Gerima since Harvest 3000. Such overt use of symbolism, while fashionable in the black and white morality of the 1970's, looks and feels amateurish today in a world of nuanced morality. Another major problem with Teza is lack of plot development. The most glaring example of this is the assault of Anberber by the skinheads. This scene jumps at you like a bogeyman in the dark, with no effort made at building up the scene through visual motifs or foreshadowing. Teza is replete with such abrupt scenes that feel more like afterthoughts than carefully construed plot developments. And the last nail on the coffin is aptly provided by the inept actors who in all fairness are asked to read hardly plausible lines, punctuated by screaming and yelping, in an overly dramatic way. This is especially true of the lead, a very stiff actor only capable of two sets of emotions- anger and bemused detachment. Fortunately for Teza, exceptional cinematography and music provide the film with some degree of artistic integrity. Unfortunately, these qualities can be easily experienced by simply staying home and staring at some pastoral Ethiopian landscape while listening to traditional Ethiopian music than going out of your way to watch a movie that has very scant to offer.
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