Difret

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Difret Movie Poster Image
Intense Ethiopian film makes case for girls'/women's rights.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 99 minutes

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The girls and young women are starting to realize they don't have to endure social norms that subjugate them because of their gender. Courage and perseverance can bring about change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tenacious lawyer Meaza agrees to defend Hirut, a 14-year-old girl accused of murder after standing up to the man who abducted and assaulted her, even though the traditional justice system has already declared her guilty. It takes a long time, but eventually the courts, and the rest of the country, realize that the real crime was committed by the man she killed.

Violence

The early parts of the film depict a horrific crime: A gang of men kidnaps a teenage girl, and one of them beats and sexually assaults her. Though the full incident isn't shown on screen, it's clear what's happened, and it's often discussed. The gang later chases the girl and her lawyer, shooting at their car from horseback.

Sex

The only content in the film related to sex is violent in nature (details in "Violence" section).

Language

English subtitles include infrequent cursing, such as "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One scene shows people drinking at a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Difret is a powerful Ethiopian film (executive produced by Angelina Jolie) that shows how some longstanding traditions lead to the subjugation of women and girls. It's based on the true story of a 14-year-old girl who is abducted by a gang of men and assaulted/raped by one of them, then manages to fight back and shoot her primary assailant with his own gun. She ends up accused of murder and sentenced to death until a tenacious female lawyer comes to her aid and challenges their country's customs. Not much of the horrible crime is shown on screen, though it's discussed often throughout the film. The movie is in Amharic with English subtitles, which occasionally include profanity ("s--t"). One scene of drinking in a bar.

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What's the story?

While walking home from school, 14-year-old Hirut (Tizita Hagere) is kidnapped by a gang of men who carry her off to a remote cabin. One of the men beats and rapes her and then announces that he plans to make her his wife, part of a longstanding tradition in Ethiopia known as abduction-marriage. Terrified, Hirut flees, grabbing her captor's rifle on the way; when the men catch up to her, she shoots the primary assailant dead. That's just the start of DIFRET, which is based on a true story and executive produced by Angelina Jolie. The film also chronicles Hirut's nightmarish journey through Ethiopia's legal system -- and introduces viewers to Meaza (Meron Getnet), the courageous lawyer who challenges the local customs to defend her. It's in Amharic, the local language of Ethiopia, with English subtitles.

Is it any good?

This is a powerful, intense film about an important subject that it explores without flinching. Hirut's experience is horrific, made even more terrible by the knowledge that abduction-marriage is common in Ethiopia and that the film is based on fact. Hagere, the young star, is impressive as a scared teen who's forced to endure terrible treatment, first at the hands of her kidnappers, and then by the police and village elders, who seem to have little to no regard for the rights of a teenage girl. Getnet is just as compelling as Meaza, a female lawyer who refuses to back down in a country where everything seems to be rigged against women. Together, the two stars make Difret into a movie that's sometimes tough to watch but shouldn't be missed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Difret's implied versus overt violence. Although not much of the attack on Hirut is shown on screen, how is the violent act suggested? Which has more of an impact -- what you see, or what you don't? Why do you think that is?

  • What is the film saying about the impact of some cultural traditions? Why is Hirut seen primarily as a killer by the people in her village? What do you think about the custom of marriage-by-abduction? Have you seen other films that show longstanding customs that are unfair to certain people?

  • How difficult was it for Meaza to defy local custom and demand justice for Hirut? Is she a role model?

  • How does Difret promote courage and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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