TEZA-A WINNER FILM FROM ETHIOPIA!
A Curtain Raiser on the film:
It’s not often that a film jolts you into silence and awe.
TEZA is one of them, part of the reason being that I rendered my TESOL and ELT enhancing skills there for a number of years and therefore the region, behavioral patterns and Amharic dialogue is familiar to me. [I learned Amharic after landing in that nation for being more efficient and thus of being of better use to the children in 4700 schools but the ruling ministry thought I was a CIA plant!]
The director of the film was also born and brought up at the time I was present in Ethiopia ,and he has picked a story from the 1980’s, a most turbulent time in the history of that nation.
The Ethiopian intellectual Anberber—He’s a biochemist and biotechnologist–returns to his home nation from the West with many dreams for changing her economy’s complexion and making her a world class nation liberated from poverty, disease and hunger. He has spent several years studying medicine in Germany.
It’s the 1980’s and the government in power is a military tyranny under Mengistu Haile Mariam. The country is in turmoil and cursed by rebellion and civil war.
Anberber’s dream of using his skill set to improve the health status of his home countrymen is squashed by the military junta, which has obvious leanings to the USSR and is given to viewing all returning from the non-communist West with suspicion and allergy. The government prefers to use the scientists to further its own nefarious political ends. If they don’t abide by the directives sent out by the junta, they get punished and tortured.
Seeking the comfort of his countryside home Anberber can find no refuge from the ongoing all round violence. Both the military forces sent out by the government and the forces of rebellion sandwich the helpless citizens in their struggle for supremacy. Anberber has his own memories of an unremarkable boyhood and youth but they remain his memories only, incapable of taking off into reality in any manner whatsoever.
He is faced with quite tough choices-whether to remain in his home nation or settle elsewhere. Piecing together life again after all that trauma is not easy he realizes but then which other option is left for him?
Relevance of the Theme in similar nations.
Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia, is on the Horn of Africa and is mostly mountainous, fiercely independent and nonaligned in spirit if not in reality, and deeply religious. Deprived of its topsoil fertility by the Blue Nile, which takes origin in its Lake Tana, it remains somewhat impoverished economically, and has many communities, mostly Christian and Muslim.
Except for this 4000- 8000 altitude, Ethiopia shares many parallels with, say, a South Asian nation like India too in its ways. At least in some Indian states we can still see local party triggered violence, illicit networks grinning at the ruling party in power, the ruling ministry itself getting exposed as corrupt and biased against the interests of the native population, grandiose announcements of initiatives without any follow-up and no effort at implementation, over bearing military tyranny and even kidnapping and torture.
This film has won numerous prices at global level including the Best Film at Amiens Film Festival, Grand prize at Ougadougou Pan African film festival and Special jury prize at Venice.
This 140-minute long classic film, made by a full blooded Ethiopian national named Haile Gerima in 2008, explores the asymmetry between the desire of a nation to progress and its invariable challenges, the colossal wastage happening in the optimization of human talent and resources for as noble objective and the distinct presence of the Anti-Christ mindset and culture occurring day in and day out even in our own times today.
The director –cum-producer has picked out these highlights in a tightly knot story matrix and the film is shot almost totally with Ethiopian mountain scenery as its backdrop ,which giving it remarkable richness and unearthliness, thus releasing it from being time bound and topical in relevance.
Gerima is one of the most original and significant voices in independent film making in today’s Africa.
His unique film making aesthetic is coupled with a personal mission to rectify long held misconceptions about the Black people’s varied and vastly different histories all over the world. Naturally he is viewed as a master creator and master guide in film making.
The key message that this film carries with it is that it’s far from enough if you are gifted with talent, patriotism and skill, you also stand in dire need of the right opportunities to be of ANY use to your own society.
All South Asian and most African nations have many internal challenges that a tourist may not be aware of during his visit.
I had to see both my youngest sister and my eldest brother—both gold medal winners from Indian universities in different realms– leave for the US, not to make any money for themselves in the 1970s, but simply because they felt they couldn’t hope to land a good job here in a much discrimination-cursed society with some kind of favorable ambiance accompanying the position they would get!
[Both settled in the US, renounced Indian citizenship totally, adopted US citizenship and flourished. But they got alienated from all of us at home, and view India with ill-concealed contempt, a lot of suspicion for what she is at times and for her hapless people including me and my two surviving siblings!]