The compelling Difret is a small film with a lot on its mind. Authentic and affecting, this drama about the Ethiopian tradition of abducting young girls into marriage provides a dramatic yet nuanced window into a culture we almost never see.

Attorney Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet) heads an organization in Addis that advocates for the rights of women and children. Meanwhile, in a village three hours from the capital, 14-year-old Hirut (Tizita Hagere) is walking home. Suddenly, a group of mounted horsemen swoops Hirut off the ground and imprisons her in a hut. There, one of the group sexually assaults her and then announces, “you will soon be my wife”, but Hirut has other ideas. Gaining control of the man’s weapon, she shoots and kills her kidnapper. Though the local constabulary intervenes and imprisons her, the general consensus is that “she is going to pay with her life.” Meaza attempts to help the girl, but nothing about this situation proves simple.

“I hope this film will go a long way toward changing thinking,” Mehari has said. It’s hard to imagine a film this persuasive doing otherwise.

Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times


Please note that the festival is for over 18s only