Difret chronicles a legal-precedent setting court case that outlawed an Ethiopian tradition. The story starts when Hirut (Tizita Hagere) (Fictional name), a 14-year-old girl from a small rural village, is abducted by a group of horsemen. One of them wants Hirut to marry him. He rapes her. If she becomes pregnant, he will then marry her. Hirut tries to escape and shoot her rapist with his own shotgun. Hirut is brought to the police and charged with murder. This could mean the death penalty. Lawyer Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet) (Real name) from Adinet Women’s Lawyers Association is called to defend Hirut. But Ashenafi has to deal with the local police an uncooperative district attorney. We can feel the lawyer’s frustrations as she tries to help her client as best she can. Meanwhile at the village, a tribunal of men have exiled Hirut, forbidden her to go there. And the family of the man she killed are threatening to kill her if she goes back home. Although this is a fiction film and some of the facts may have been changed. One example: Time is compressed. The case started in 1996 and lasted 8 years. The young girl was 22 when it was over. In Difret, she remains a teenager throughout the film. Except for a few professional actors (Meron Getnet among them), most are non-professional. It looks and sounds real and authentic. Getnet and Hagere are particularly touching in scenes of Hirut sleeping at the lawyer’s apartment. The young girl seems surprised to see that a woman can be independent and without a husband. I understand that there is disputes about the importance given to lawyer Ashenafi in the film, but this is such an important film to see. The law has changed but this is still happening in some area of Ethiopia. Bravo to director Zeresenay Mehari for this first feature film and to executive producer Angelina Jolie.
In Amharic with English subtitles