Ethiopian film takes top prize at Africa film festival – OUAGADOUGOU (AFP)

March 7th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The Ethiopian film “Teza” by director Haile Gerima took the Golden Stallion of Yennenga on Saturday for best film at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival. (more…)

The Ethiopian film “Teza” by director Haile Gerima took the Golden Stallion of Yennenga on Saturday for best film at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival.

The jury’s unanimous pick for top honours, “Teza” deals with the brutal regime of dictator Haile Mariam Mengistu in the 1970s and 1980s.

It revolves around an idealistic scientist who returns to Ethiopia during the Mengistu regime. Beautifully filmed, “Teza” switches between present and past in a series of flashbacks between protagonists time studying in Germany in the 1970s, Ethiopia in the 1980s and the present.

It deals with big themes — emigration, return, dictatorship, racism, war and the position of women — without getting preachy.

Gerima was not present in Ouagadougou to collect the award, so his sister Selome Gerima, who co-produced the film, accepted it on his behalf.

Speaking to AFP on Friday, she said she and her brother had worked 14 years to bring the epic story to the screen.

“When Haile does a film he is very serious. He does very broad research. Then, after the shoot, he edits himself and creates his own soundtrack,” she explained.

The film premiered in Ethiopia on January 3 to sold-out audiences and is still drawing in the crowds. There has been an emotional response to the story, she explained.

“It is a very sensitive film and it makes you remember what it was like (under Megistu). Many people have forgotten but when they see the film they remember. When we show the film people come up to us afterwards to tell us, ‘I’ve lost my brother’ and so on,” Gerima said.

The awards ceremony marked the official closing of the 21st edition of Africa’s biggest film festival also known as FESPACO.

The second-place Silver Stallion went to South-Africa’s John Kani for “Nothing but the Truth”. Adapted from a play, it explores a librarian’s experiences with racism in South Africa during and after the apartheid era.

The Bronze Stallion went to audience favourite “Mascarades” (Masquerades), an Algerian comedy about a boy who invents an imaginary rich suitor for his narcoleptic sister.

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