In a world where most of us get to pick their spouse, arranged marriage can seem like a foreign concept. Taking it one step further than that, seems unimaginable. In DIFRET, a young lawyer travels to an Ethiopian village to represent Hirut, a 14-year-old girl who shot her would-be husband as he and others were practicing one of the nation’s oldest traditions: abduction into marriage.
1996, Ethiopia, caught in a culture where women are considered second class citizens, where abuse is swept under the rug, Hirut is kidnapped on her way home from school, raped and told she will be come her capture’s wife. After a swift and brave escape, she shoots her would-be husband and is quickly taken in by police. Hearing of her plight, young activist lawyer, Meaza Ashenafi , takes it upon herself to defend this truly innocent girl. Sexism is rampant in the surrounding villages, ruled by elders and unbalanced justice notions. Even in the city, where Hirut is being held, the male police, lawyers, and Minister of Justice all pose road blocks to a young girl’s rights.
The film is beautifully juxtaposed with scenes from village justice Vs the actual legal proceedings. Breaking down of 3rd world injustice is the ultimate victory. Teaching Hirut that she does not have to follow those forced into traditional kidnapped marriage, like so many before her. Mob mentality among the men reigns supreme. Infuriating to endure as Western audience members may not begin to fathom that such a heinous custom could be socially acceptable. This film, based on a true story, is about changing the culture. It’s about self esteem. It’s about standing up for what we know is right.
The film won audience awards at Sundance, Berlin, and Amsterdam Film Fest among others, and was Ethiopia’s official submission for the Academy Awards; it will open in theaters starting October 23rd in New York at the Lincoln Plaza.