"Teza," Bicycle Film Fest
One part personal drama and three parts crash course in postwar Ethiopian history, "Teza" turns the story of a returning expatriate intellectual into a reflection of his country's tribulations. Anberber (Aaron Arefe) left Ethiopia for Germany to become a doctor in the 1970s. He's an idealist who wants to wipe out the diseases troubling his homeland, a stance that places him outside the charged leftist dogmatism of his young contemporaries. "I believe in socialism as long as I have my own girlfriend," he jokes.
Through an unceasing series of bruising encounters, he learns that politics is a deadly serious business. In Germany, radical chic propels mixed-race lovers to establish unsuitable relationships, while racist nationalists treat Africans in much the same manner their grandparents treated Jews. Back home, under the repressive Marxist regime of Haile Mariam Mengistu, things are not much better. The nation's poverty is crushing and Anberber faces estrangement from his family and village. Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima exhaustively details the military junta's repression of his people's humanity and social values. The film is rough around the edges, and overlong at two hours and 13 minutes. Still, it's an eye-opening portrait of injustice and loss that leaves you drowning in rage and sorrow.
In May, Bicycling magazine designated Minneapolis as America's bike-friendliest city. In June the city inaugurated the Nice Ride public bike-sharing program, putting thousands of people atop bright green rental bikes. Local interest in two-wheeled transportation is clearly in high gear. This weekend the Bicycle Film Festival 10 rolls into the land of 10,000 bikes.
The latest chapter in the summertime film series peddles a potpourri of homemade shorts about dirt jumping and freestyle aerial stunts, videos of unsanctioned races and documentaries about Cuba's bike-taxi drivers. Bike movies tend to share a spirit of exhilaration and adventure, portraying cyclists as free spirits, outlaws and alley cats. There's even an intimate portrait of the nefarious Igor Kenk, called "the world's most prolific bicycle thief" by the New York Times when he was arrested in 2008 with a stash of 3,000 stolen bicycles. His crimes are a pretty persuasive argument for capital punishment.
Most of the films clock in under 10 minutes, but there are a few long-form entries. Highlights include Friday's hourlong "The Birth of Big Air," a Spike Jonze-produced tribute to Mat Hoffman, the Evel Knievel of BMX stunts. Whether he's a world-class champion athlete or a "Jackass"-style jester is a question viewers must answer for themselves. Saturday there's "Lucas Brunelle: Line of Sight," a breakneck documentary about urban racers shot from the vantage point of a cleverly designed custom helmet-cam.
The films screen at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. There are two Friday screenings at 5 and 7 p.m., and three Saturday at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. $8 per program. For more information, visit www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/minneapolis.