Difret: New Ethiopian feature film goes to Sundance

A new Ethiopian film that challenges old traditions has gone to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as an entry in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.


The film ‘Difret’ (which means courage and at the same time the act of rape) is produced by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari. He founded Haile Addis Pictures to produce this narrative feature.
The film has gotten a lot of hype as it was announced that Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has joined the production team as the executive producer.
The film’s storyline revolves around a girl and a female lawyer who take on the Ethiopian tradition of “telefa”, or marriage by abduction. The lawyer defends the 14 year old girl who is charged with killing a man who attempts to abduct her into marriage.
“What pushed me to make this story is that we never question the things that are handed down to us traditionally. This is one of many – I wanted to take that and see if we could talk about it and see how the country would respond,” Zeresenay said in a statement.
He also said that for the last several years he has witnessed Ethiopia change and grow in ways that are conflicted.
Zeresenay said, “I wanted to make a film that captured this flux and translated the struggle of moving from an old Ethiopia to a new one. Difret became that film by posing one simple question: What happens when traditions that are passed down from generation to generation become interrupted?
After the announcement that she would be joining the production team, Angelina Jolie also reportedly said that the film was a strong moment for art in Ethiopia. “It is inspiring to see such an important story so beautifully illustrated with such creative talent. It draws out the richness of Ethiopian culture and shows how important legal advances can be made while respecting local culture,” she said.
Difret was shot on location in Ethiopia and its spoken language is Amharic. It is not known when it will be shown in Ethiopian cinemas.