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Theatrical release poster
Directed byZeresenay Berhane Mehari
Written byZeresenay Berhane Mehari
Produced byMehret Mandefro
Leelai Demoz
Zeresenay Mehari
CinematographyMonika Lenczewska
Edited byAgnieszka Glinska
Music byDave Eggar
David Schommer
Haile Addis Pictures
Truth Aid
Release dates
  • 18 January 2014 (2014-01-18) (Sundance)
  • 25 September 2014 (2014-09-25) (Ethiopia)
Running time
99 minutes
Box office$57,2013[1]

Difret (Amharic: ድፍረት, lit.'Courage') is a 2014 Ethiopian drama film written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari. The film had its premiere in-competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where it won the World Cinematic Dramatic Audience Award.[2][3] Angelina Jolie served as the executive producer of the film.[4]

The film later premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in the Panorama section,[5][6] where it won the Audience Award.[7] It was selected as the Ethiopian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.[8][9][10]

The title literally translates as "courage", "audacity",[11] but can also be a euphemism for "the act of being raped."[12]


The film chronicles a legal-precedent setting court case that outlawed the kidnapping of child brides (ጠለፈ tʼelefa) in Ethiopia. It tells the story of a 14-year-old girl, Hirut Assefa (based on Aberash Bekele), who is kidnapped on her way home from school and subsequently grabs a rifle and tries to escape, but ends up shooting her would-be husband. In her village, the practice of abduction into marriage is common and one of Ethiopia's oldest traditions. Meaza Ashenafi, the founder of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), arrives from the city to have her team represent Hirut and argue that she acted in self-defence.



The film was temporarily banned in September 2014 for allegedly giving "too much credit" to Ashenafi, according to a complaint by Bekele, on whose experience the film was based. The case settled out of court and the ban was ultimately lifted. The film's director, Mehari, apologized to Bekele for "any misperception and for any harm that [they] may have caused."[13] The film subsequently enjoyed a successful theatrical run in Ethiopia and kicked off its educational outreach efforts that are focused on raising awareness about the issue of child marriage.[14] Ashenafi's leadership and administration of EWLA during this time is the reason she has received several international human rights awards including the Africa Prize of The Hunger Project for her work defending vulnerable women and children in Ethiopia.[15]


Difret received mixed reviews upon its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Dennis Harvey of Variety, said in his review that "'Difret' presents an important message, albeit in rather clunky narrative terms. More showing and less telling would have made this fact-inspired drama by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari as artistically compelling as it is informative. Still, fests and other outlets attracted to social-justice issues will queue up for this relatively rare export-ready Ethiopian feature."[16] Boyd van Hoeij in his review for The Hollywood Reporter called the film "A quiet and powerful drama, based on a true story, that relies on familiar storytelling tropes."[17] The film has a score of 58% on Metacritic.[18]


Difret wins the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2014 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Zeresenay Berhane Mehari Nominated
Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic Zeresenay Berhane Mehari Won[19][20]
Berlin International Film Festival Panoroma Audience Award Zeresenay Berhane Mehari Won[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Difret". The Numbers. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Sundance 2014: World Cinema Dramatic Competition". 10 January 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  3. ^ "World Cinema Dramatic Competition". Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Sundance 2014: Angelina Jolie Joins Ethiopian Film 'Difret' as Executive Producer". The Hollywood Reporter. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Panorama 2014: Selection of Fictional Features for Main Programme and Panorama Special Now Complete". berlinale. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Difret". berlinale. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Panorama 64th Berlinale". Berlinale. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  8. ^ "'Difret' Submitted for Oscar Consideration for Best Foreign Language Film". Tadias. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  9. ^ "83 Countries In Competition For 2014 Foreign Language Film Oscar". AMPAS. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Oscar Attracts Best Foreign Language Film Submissions From a Record 83 Countries". Hollywood Reporter. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  11. ^ "The Amharic Project: Fretting over Difret". Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  12. ^[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Ban on Difret film lifted - Ethiopia Observer". Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Difret: Building a Culture of Courage". The Huffington Post. 4 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Press Release 2008 - Embassy of the United States Addis Ababa, Ethiopia". Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Sundance Film Review: 'Difret'". 25 January 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Difret: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Difret". Metacritic. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  19. ^ "Sundance: 'Whiplash' & 'Rich Hill' Win Grand Jury Awards; Dramatic Directing Goes To Cutter Hodierne For 'Fishing Without Nets'". 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  20. ^ "'Whiplash' Owns the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Awards Netting Two Top Prizes". 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.