'Difret' review by PopMatters Intern and English Honors Major Mary Clare Durel

The Story of Many Represented by the Story of One

Based on true events, Difret follows an Ethiopian girl’s struggle to overcome subordination and mistreatment. As the film begins, Hirut (Tizita Hagere) is abducted from home and family by neighboring men who intend to make her the wife of one of them. Hirut escapes, but in the process, she shoots and kills her rapist.

If the drama here sounds broad, it’s also searing and complicated. Difret, executive produced by Angelina Jolie Pitt and now in theaters, soon turns its attention to Hirut’s legal dilemmas, as Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet) of the Andinet Women Lawyers Association, takes her case. While the film doesn’t display the rape graphically—the camera is so close on the experience that the imagery is almost abstract—but it makes clear the pain that follows in Hirut’s isolation, fear, and multiple losses.

The nightmare shows on her weeping face in the police station after she is arrested. It shows in the Assistant DA’s (Brook Sheferaw) indifference toward her. It’s plain in the response of the all-male council, local men who reject her father’s (Mekonen Laeake) effort to defend her against the allegations of the dead man’s family, that she was a shameful and disobedient “wife”. Hirut was been kidnapped just after she received the exciting news that she was about to enter the fifth grade.

For all its focus on these traumas, Difret is as much Meaza’s film as it is Hirut’s. A former judge and now a women’s lawyer, Meaza seems an incorruptible force against the male authorities who consider women second-class citizens. Meaza’s determination is revealed even before she meets Hirut when, during an early scene in the film, she hears out a wife seeking help against her physically abusive husband, then tracks the man to his workplace and threatens him with legal action, wielding her expertise as a weapon.

Read more of Mary Clare Durel's review here.