Teshome H. Gabriel, a longtime professor in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, died June 15 of sudden cardiac arrest 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 an internationally recognized authority on Third World and post-colonial cinema.
"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 Ticho, Ethiopia, a small town near Addis Ababa, Gabriel came to the United States 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. Gabriel went on to earn his master's in 1976 and his 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 to 1999.
Gabriel's books include "Otherness and the Media: The Ethnography of the Imagined and the Imaged" and "Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetic of Liberation."
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.
At the time of his death, Gabriel was in the process of expanding that 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 the works.
As a faculty member at TFT in the 1970s and early 1980s, Gabriel was 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 two children.