Horror of Ethiopian bride abduction shown at Berlin festival

Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:00am EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - "Angelina Jolie presents" is the first thing on screen in the Ethiopian movie "Difret", but the true story of a 14-year-old girl's abduction, rape and trial for killing her abductor speaks for itself.

Shown at the Berlin film festival, it features Hirut, a bright, studious girl who dreams of going to university but whose life becomes a nightmare when she is abducted, as is the custom in rural Ethiopia, by a young man to be his bride.

He beats, rapes and imprisons her in a hut, but she manages to grab his rifle, runs away and while being pursued, shoots him dead.

The twist that will jar Western audiences in this Sundance festival audience award winner based on events that took place in 1996 is that she is charged with murder. From the minute of her arrest the men of her village demand she be killed.

Jolie, who adopted one of her children from Ethiopia, asked to be an executive producer to raise the profile of a film.

"This is the first time for me to see the movie and for me it's a flashback to 16 years," Meaza Ashenafi, the head of a women's law network in Ethiopia that successfully defended Hirut, said after a festival screening on Thursday night.

"It's beautiful, let me put it this way, it's simply beautiful," Ashenafi said in a post-screening talk.

Ethiopian-born and U.S.-trained director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari said while he hoped the nascent film industry will grow in Ethiopia, he felt it was even more important to shine a light on the problem the movie depicts.   Continued...