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Ethiopian movie takes top African film award

Latest update : 2009-03-13

'Teza', a film looking back at the bloody years of the 1970s Mengistu dictatorship in Ethiopia, by local director Haila Gerima, has won a Golden Stallion at the African film festival Fespaco held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

AFP - An Ethiopian film bringing to life the horrifically brutal 1970s and 1980s regime of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam took top honours Saturday at Africa's main film festival.
"Teza" by US-based, Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima was the jury's unanimous choice for this year's Golden Stallion of Yennenga, the award for best film at the gathering in Ouagadougou, considered Africa's Oscars.
The beautifully shot film switches between past and present as it tells the story of an idealistic scientist who studied in Germany in the 1970s before returning to Ethiopia during the Mengistu era.
It deals with big themes such as emigration and dictatorship, racism and war, also the position of women in Ethiopian society -- but Gerima manages not to preach to his audience.
As the director could not be in the Burkina Faso capital to pick up the award himself, it was accepted on his behalf by his sister Selome Gerima, who co-produced the film.
"Haile asked me to convey his hapiness," she said upon accepting the award.
Earlier on Friday, Selome Gerima had told AFP how she and her brother had struggled for 14 years to bring the epic story to the screen and explained why there had been such an emotional response in Ethiopia, where the film has played to packed out audiences since its January 3 premiere.
"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."
The runner-up Silver Stallion at Africa's biggest film festival, also known as FESPACO, 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.
The RFI audience award went to Burkinabe director Missa Hebie for "Le Fauteuil" (The Armchair).
Moroccan documentary "Nos lieux interdits" (Our forbidden places) by Leila Kilani about political oppression in her homeland took home the award for best documentary.
Thousands of filmmakers, actors and film lovers from all over the continent have descended on the dusty capital of Burkina Faso over the past week for the festivals 21st edition.
Over 300 films, shorts and documentaries were screened, although this year many festival goers and locals grumbled that free open air screenings -- which gave previous festivals a good helping of local charm -- were banned.
With cinema's closing all over the continent and filmmakers complaining that the public is abandoning homegrown films, festival organisers decided to ban open air movies to lure people back into cinemas.
But with ticket prices between 300 CFA francs (45 euro cents, 57 US cents) and 1,500 CFA francs (2.28 euros, 2.87 dollars), most residents of Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest countries, simply cannot afford the movies.
Forty-six percent of Burkinabe live on less than one euro (1.25 dollars) a day, according to national and UN statistics.
The result of the new policy was that cinema goers were mostly festival participants or western film fans who travelled to Ouagadougou for the event.

Date created : 2009-03-08