Haile Gerima’s Sons of Payton

It is my first time to write a movie review. I watched Teza last night and it blew me out. To start with, this movie came out to the cinema in 2008 . Don’t take it on me. I am quite frustrated by the quality of Ethiopian movies and this one came for the rescue. The cinematography of this movie is wonderful and beautifully Ethiopian. The casting is fantastic. It is another proves that Haile Gerima is a natural filmmaker.

What does Haile want to tell us?

He dedicated this movie for three groups which I believe perfectly summarizes the whole movie.

To my mother Mulu Basilious and my sister Elsa Gerima

The mother figure on this movie is very significant. Haile decided to have different but all great mothers in the movie. Anberber’s mom waited for her son to come from Germany (she only knew he wasn’t in the country). For Anberber’s mother he is the world. She can’t see or think beyond her son.

Most Ethiopian mothers are hardworking, giving away what they have for their children and never really show their weakness to their family. Another mother was Gabi, a German woman who decided to have a baby from a person she loves. It seemed to be uncalculated risk, though, while she fully understood the scale of racism in her surroundings yet she decided to be a great example.

The message: we have strong mothers, wives and sisters around us. It’s on them the society has built.

To all the black people who have been beaten and killed just for being black

I haven’t encountered racism in my whole life. In the same time, I have never lived outside Ethiopia more than a couple of weeks. I even knew I am black when I was about 14 years old. Once I heard in the Hollywood movie, the guy asked “Because I am black?” It made me think at that time about skin color, even though I never really cared for the answer.

Anberber, and half-cast kids in the movie faced a lot of racism in Germany (the movie timeline shows 20 years ago) Anberber was beaten in his own house in Germany by a group of guys just because he is black. Tewdros, the son of Gabi also forced himself to be on the black community.

I had discussion with my friends about what is the natural way of communication between persons. I believe even though it might be easier to feel comfortable being around with people who speak the same language and came from the same nation, the natural way of harmonized communication should be based on same values between individuals.

In a group of people who are from different backgrounds, the chance that you might go to your own country person is high. But after a few minutes of discussions and interactions, the group will be mixed and usually the factor that you might be interested to see few people again determined by same value, attraction, interests in life and future plans.

The message: skin color is insignificant compared to common values and attraction

To countless young Ethiopians who were killed for daring to bring sincere change in Ethiopia

This is the main focus of the movie. Haile challenged Ethiopian social politics. In one hand, there are closed-minded and biased society members (in the movie, they represent the majority of Ethiopians); in their fixed mind set they only see two things. The politics they believe in yet they don’t even know what it is and their own false benefits – note that in the movie this people got direct benefits. But I called it “false benefits” because if they are open-minded and think beyond their belly button they might be benefited better.

Haile clearly covered three regimes – The Feudal monarchy, The DERG regime and EPRDF (each represented only by three individuals who stay in power more than 15 years). Though, he didn’t lose his focus. There is one vital message which all the three governments’ clearly have in common – the government itself comes out of the society.

The second biggest message the director wants to tell is, most undemocratic governments strictly choose people who don’t challenge them, people who can only see direct and temporary benefits and conservative people who take politics as a religion. For these people, covering behind the government is like a dream-come-true opportunity. Because they don’t stand for anything – except what they are told to stand for – and never really dare to ask why. In the same time, they can easily also be avoided. So in unhealthy government usually this takes as win-win situation.

In the movie, Anberber lost most of his basic rights just because he didn’t support the Derg regime. He couldn’t even take a vacation from work to visit his mother. He was constantly abused by pro-government people and he didn’t find justice. It is because the relationship between these people and government only based on trust – not with facts and impartiality.

Haile tried to show that in unhealthy government, it is very difficult to be neutral. In two previous regimes everyone who wasn’t a friend considered as an enemy.

Haile Gerima clearly showed where the main problems are in the last powers. It is a good lesson also for the current and future Ethiopian governments. Yet, the main question still remained unanswered.

The message: If the government doesn’t come from anywhere but from the society itself, how the society shaped? Can our generation go out of this vicious circle?

I dedicated this blog to Haile Gerima for his decent work.


  1. Meron ZG · December 1, 2011


    Enjoyed reading this. You should definitely do more reviews. Just checking with you, plus, I want to invite you to use the Hubesha Aggregator, if you haven’t singed up yet.

  2. Elyas Mulu Kiros · December 6, 2011

    Nice review! 🙂

    Cinematography-wise I have to agree with you, no doubt, it is great, let alone by Ethiopian standard, but internationally. Nevertheless, story-wise, I had mixed feelings, I always have mixed feelings about his stories, fact vs fiction aspect of them, not the way they are told, but I have reserved myself from reviewing until I feel quite comfortable to do so … im not there yet to punch a giant (i-hope u kno what i mean lol)… 🙂

    Keep it up! 🙂 I think film review (or criticism) is something that is so needed in Ethiopia, and it’s great to see that people are doing it more and more.

  3. Sameweket · December 28, 2011

    Haile Gerima Should come to Addis to show how its really done….plain and simple.

  4. genetparadise · March 1, 2012

    I share your sentiment about being disappointed in the quality of Ethiopian movies. Teza is an amazing film, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. tewedajua · March 21, 2012

    hey… its actually th e first amharic movie i saw and make me cry..it has a strong background story…and a great skill on the camera, make up and wording…good that u mentioned!

  6. Pingback: Heile gerima | 747mediagroup

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