The film centres around the case of 14-year-old Hirut (Tizita Hagere), who, after being snatched on her way home from school, beaten and raped, shoots and kills her would-be husband. Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet), a young lawyer and founder of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association, takes on her case. Though only three hours away from the capital city, Hirut’s village is still steeped in tradition, and Meaza must navigate the messy world between the traditions, which dictate Hirut must die, and the basic human rights everybody should be afforded.
The two leads are fairly strong, Meaza is a little one-dimensional at times, but Hirut’s struggles and recovery are thoroughly and sensitively explored. The cinematography is nothing spectacular, though there are a few scenes where Ethiopia’s natural beauty shines through; shots are occasionally clumsy but the film’s powerful message mostly makes up for that.
Difret might rely on age-old narrative tropes and does have a certain “made for TV” edge to it, but in the right light, that adds to the experience. This is not a tale that needs to be disguised or made out to be more complex than it really is: this is about the horrific treatment of women, plain and simple. The film doesn’t need to rely on fancy narrative techniques or well-timed swells of music to get its point across.
In spite of it’s relatively amateur nature and the simple narrative, Difret is a triumph. Director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari has created a powerful, female-led drama that serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and the most basic human right of all: freedom.
Difret is released in selected cinemas on 6th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for Difret here: