Ethiopian film explores nation's recent violent past

Tue Sep 2, 2008 8:58am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - A powerful new film chronicles the life of an Ethiopian intellectual who flees his country during the Marxist "red terror" in the 1980s, only to be viciously attacked in Germany by racist youths.

Anberber, the central character, returns to his homeland longing for peace, but life with his mother in a small village is disrupted by armed factions dragging boys away to fight and by prying locals wary of a man they consider to be an outsider.

"Teza," by Ethiopian director Haile Gerima, is one of 21 movies in competition at the Venice film festival, and warm applause after a press screening suggested it would be a contender for prizes at the closing ceremony on Saturday.

The story jumps between multiple timelines, but in each Anberber struggles to fit in, be it in his native Ethiopia or in exile in Germany.

Gerima said "Teza" reflected his own experiences, and was based on a recurring dream.

"The dream is basically about intellectual displacement," he told reporters in Venice on Tuesday.

"When I translated my dream it was about being displaced, unable to live up to your peasant life, your peasant family and at the same time reconcile (that) with your modern world."

Anberber seeks refuge in memories of his happy childhood, something U.S.-based Gerima said he also did whenever he returned to Ethiopia which he described as "a nightmare for me."   Continued...

<p>Actor Aaron Arefe takes a picture of photographers during a photocall at the Venice Film Festival September 2, 2008. Arefe stars in the movie "Teza" by Ethiopian director Haile Gerima which is presented in competition at the Venice Film Festival. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>