Festival Fare with Alessandro: Difret
Magnificent, moving and relevant.
Director: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari
Featuring: Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere
Production Company: Haile Addis Pictures
Duration: 99 mins
In Amharic with English Subtitles
Reviewed By Alessandro Hutt
Difret is a powerful movie – it hits you right in the heart. Old Ethiopian tradition is to abduct your wife to be, even without her or her family’s consent. When 14-year-old Hirut (a defiant Tizita Hagere) is abducted and raped, she fights back and kills her attacker. But also in line with Ethiopian tradition is the punishment for a woman who kills her attacker – the death penalty. A strong willed female lawyer named Meaza (a marvelous Meron Getnet) enters the fray determined to prove Hirut’s actions as self-defense.
Just from reading the description you know Difret will be a tense sit. Its subject matter is pertinent and raw – and affecting as a result. It’s something that sounds so common sense to us, but is firmly cemented in the local’s traditions. As director Mehari has said, “we have some beautiful traditions. This is not one of them.” The strong acting from Getnet and Hagere make the situation all the more real. Every time you see their looks of resolve your gut tightens a little and you might tear up. There’s also the inherent sadness behind their eyes that is certainly part of their strength.
Mehari does make an effort to show the village’s viewpoint as well. He doesn’t say they are right in their convictions, but he does present their arguments. It ties into the realistic portrayal of the story. There are some cinematic flourishes of course, but for the most part it’s played very straight. The movie is based on a true story, and Meaza and Hirut are real life people who have experienced the exact events that we see. Real life Hirut (named Aberash Bekele) is still battling this today, as she can’t safely return to her village.
This is a pertinent, must see film. It personalizes a human issue that we must be aware of if we want to change it. The fact that it’s a well-made and expertly acted film makes it even better. See this as soon as you can.