UCLA film expert Teshome Gabriel dies at 70
Pioneering scholar/activist taught cinema and media studiesTeshome Gabriel, a longtime professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and an internationally recognized authority on Third World and post-colonial cinema, died June 15 of a heart attack at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City, Calif. He was 70.
A pioneering scholar and activist, Gabriel had taught cinema and media studies at TFT since 1974 and was closely associated with UCLA's African Studies Center.
"He was a brilliant, gracious, elegant and generous man," said Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. "Teshome was a consummate professional and a truly beloved faculty member at TFT. He will be greatly missed by all of us."
Born in 1939 in Ethiopia, Gabriel came to the U.S. in 1962, earning degrees in political science and educational media from the University of Utah before being hired as a lecturer at TFT in 1974. He went on to receive his master's in 1976 and Ph.D. in 1979 from UCLA and became a full tenured professor in 1995. He served as vice chair of TFT's department of film and television from 1997-99.
Gabriel's books include "Otherness and the Media: The Ethnography of the Imagined and the Imaged" (1993) and "Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetic of Liberation" (1982). He also published numerous articles and was founding director of several journals, including Emergencies and the Ethiopian Fine Arts Journal.
"Teshome's work had three main themes," said professor Nicholas Browne, vice chair for cinema and media studies. "He focused on the unique styles of films made in the non-aligned nations of Latin America and Africa (the 'Third World'), the issues of relating and representing 'the other' (that is, people not like us), and the unique situation of filmmakers and scholars who have left the countries of their birth and occupy and reflect on their marginal, in-between place in the world, a more and more common situation in a global world of the 20th and 21st centuries."
Gabriel's influential 1990 essay "Nomadic Aesthetic and the Black Independent Cinema" received an Opus Award from the Village Voice for "charting out a genuinely new theory of black cinema." The term "nomadic aesthetic," which Gabriel coined, has come to be widely used in critical discussions of the art, music and literature of the Third World.
"The principal characteristic of Third Cinema," Gabriel wrote, "is not so much where it is made, or even who makes it, but rather, the ideology it espouses. The Third Cinema is that cinema of the Third World that stands opposed to imperialism and class oppression in all their ramifications and manifestations."
At the time of his death, Gabriel was expanding that seminal essay into a book for Blackwell Publishing, "Third Cinema: Exploration of Nomadic Aesthetics and Narrative Communities." A manuscript for a "foundational work" on African cinema also was in progress.
As a faculty member at TFT in the 1970s and early 1980s, Gabriel served as a colleague and mentor to the African-American and African student filmmakers whose work came to define the Los Angeles School of black filmmakers, also known as the "L.A. Rebellion." The group included Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Ben Caldwell, Billy Woodberry, Alile Sharon Larkin, Jacqueline Frazier, Jamaa Fanaka and Barbara McCullough.
The UCLA Film & Television Archive is preparing a major film exhibition, scheduled for 2011, which will explore this key artistic movement.
Gabriel is survived by his wife, Maaza Woldemusie, and their two children, daughter Mediget and son Tsegaye.
The family requests that donations in honor of Gabriel be made to the UCLA Foundation memorial fund that will support students in TFT's Cinema and Media Studies program. Donations can be sent to Peter Heller at the Development Office of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Box 951622, Los Angeles, Calif. 90095-1622.
Please make checks payable to "UCLA Foundation," and in the memo line, please write "In memory of Professor Teshome Gabriel." To contribute by credit card, please call Bonnie MacDougall at (310) 206-6154.