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Ethiopian film earns nation's first Carthage award

By Mona Yahia for Magharebia in Tunis – 03/11/08

The 22nd annual Carthage Cinema Days ended on Saturday (November 1st) in Tunisia, with the Golden Tanit for best picture going to the Ethiopian film "Teza", by director Haile Gerima.

The film was selected for top feature-film honours by a unanimous vote of the jury.

"Teza" depicts a young Ethiopian doctor, who returned to his country in the 1970s after living in Germany for years. He finds his country under the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and is forced to deal with the resulting political and social mayhem.

"I'm happy and grateful for my beautiful and humble film," Gerima said on receiving the award. "I'm also indebted to previous generations, to director Othmane Sambane and to the founder of Carthage Cinema Days, Tunisia's Tahir Sharia."

This was Ethiopia’s first Golden Tanit from Carthage. "Teza" also won awards for best music, best photography, best screenplay, and best supporting actor. Previously, it won the special jury award at this year's Venice Film Festival.

More than 250 films participated in the festival this year, including 18 full-length films and 8 short films in the official competition. This is in addition to the video competition and project workshops.

The Silver Tanit went to "Eid Milad Laila" [Laila's Birthday] by Palestinian director Rachid Micharaoui. This film treats questions about homeland and humans away from pessimism.

Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri won the award for best actor for his leading role in "Eid Milad Laila."

Bakri stressed that the jury was not unfairly sympathetic to Palestine. "We deserved the award, so they gave it to us," he said.

"Malh Hadha Al Bahr" [Salt of this Sea] by Palestinian director Anne-Marie Jasser, received the Randa El Chahal award, created this year.

"There was an atmosphere of democracy, and we heard the opinions of all members of the committee," said Yasmina Khadra, Algerian author and the head of the jury committee.

Tunisian film "Khamesa" by Karime Dridi received the Bronze Tanit.

Critics argued that "Khamesa" should not have been included in the official competition, which is restricted to Arab and African countries, because it was shot in France and there were no Tunisian actors in it. However, the film also won the award for best editing.

In the video section, the movie "Samt" [Silence] by Tunisian Karim Souaki won first prize, while "Zakaret Emraa" [A Woman's Memory] by Tunisian Lassad Wisleti took second, and "Ibtasem Anta fi Janoub Lebanon" [Smile, You're in Southern Lebanon] by Jordanian Dalia Kouri came in third.

Carthage Cinema Days, founded in 1966, is considered one of the most important Arab and African festivals.

The festival ended its last night with a screening of the Tunisian movie "Thalathoun" [The Thirties] by director Fadhel Jaziri. The film treats historical events that coincided with the birth of the national political, social and cultural movement in the 1930s in Tunisia.

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