The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Film Review - Difret

Zeresenay Berhane Mehari (Director)

Reviewer - Anne Parsons

This is technically an advance notification, rather than a review, as I believe that Difret has so far only been shown at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). The response was very good as it received the audience award for best fictional feature at both festivals.

The film's website ( explains the film's title: In the Amharic language, the word 'difret' has a double meaning. In its widest use it means courage and the closest English translation means 'to dare.' But in Amharic, it also has a double-entendre that means 'the act of being raped.'

Difret is set in Ethiopia in 1996 and tells the story of 14-year-old Hirut who, while walking home from school, is abducted by a 29-year-old farmer who intends to marry her. Hirut shoots and kills her abductor with his own rifle and is then charged with murder. She faces the death penalty though she claims her actions are in self-defence.

The other lead character, Meaza Ashenafi, is the founder of an organization that provides free legal aid services to poor women and children in need. She embarks on a long tenacious battle to try to save Hirut's life and as the trial unfolds these two women's lives become inextricably linked.

The writer and director of Difret is Zeresenay Berhane Mehari who was born and raised in Ethiopia but moved to the USA some years to go to film school. Difret was shot on location in Ethiopia and is in Amharic with English sub-titling.

I hope that later this year Difret gets a showing in the UK, either in festivals or with full cinematic distribution, so that we get a chance to see it.

First Published in News File Spring 2014

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