Friday night I had the privilege of attending a screening of the film, Teza and listening to comments by the filmmaker, Haile Gerima. The film was made in 2009, however, I missed this release, probably like most of you, because it was not broadcast on any major stations, nor was it distributed to any of the major theatres. This may be a problem in the distribution of great films or maybe I just missed it.
After some sleep and reflection, I think that I can confidently say that Teza was brilliant. This is one of the first films on the African diaspora experience in the late 20th Century, and it did not disappoint.
Using the story of Ethiopian doctor Anberber as the lens, Teza examines the displacement of African intellectuals at home and abroad. Medical doctor Anberber (Aaron Arefe) returns from West Germany as a medical researcher. Anberber returns to Ethiopia at the height of the Cold War, when the country is under the grip of the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Anberber's dream of using his scientific education to improve the health of Ethiopians is destroyed by the revolutionary gangsters running the country. After witnessing the brutal murder of his co-workers, he is ordered by the regime to take up a post in East Germany. Anberber uses this opportunity to escape the brutalities of Ethiopia's military regime, only returning to Ethiopia as an elderly man, finally finding his way home to his village. He finds comfort from his aging mother, but is alienated from his other relatives and villagers around him. Anberber continues to be haunted and disillusioned by the politics of war that come to dominate the Ethiopia to which he has returned.
The film successfully weaves together the local and the global. Haile Gerima places the diaspora in the mix of migratory circulation without glorifying either Ethiopia or Germany. He presents the struggle against capitalism neither with the nostalgic romanticism of revolutionary remembrance nor the condemnation of a renewed market driven consciousness. In sum, this was a brilliant film.