Film Synopsis

From executive producer Angelina Jolie Pitt comes the award-winning drama DIFRET, based on the inspirational true story of a young Ethiopian girl and a tenacious lawyer embroiled in a life-or-death clash between cultural traditions and their country’s advancement of equal rights. When 14-year-old Hirut is abducted in her rural village’s tradition of kidnapping women for marriage, she fights back, accidentally killing her captor and intended husband. Local law demands a death sentence for Hirut, but Meaza, a tough and passionate lawyer from a women’s legal aide practice, steps in to fight for her. With both Hirut’s life and the future of the practice at stake the two women must make their case for self-defense against one of Ethiopia’s oldest and most deeply-rooted traditions. DIFRET paints a portrait of a country in a time of great transformation and the brave individuals ready to help shape it.

The Filmmakers

Zeresenay Berhane Mehari

Writer/ Director

Zeresenay Berhane Mehari is an award-winning writer/director with over a decade of experience making films. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Mehari moved to the U.S. to attend film school. He founded Haile Addis Pictures to produce his first narrative feature film, Difret. He has a bachelor of arts degree from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Mehret Mandefro


Mehret Mandefro is a producer/writer who draws on her experience as a physician and anthropologist to make films about the social determinants of health. She is currently Producer and President of Truth Aid, a not for profit organization that produces multimedia content about the social barriers to well being and translates research into action. She produced the feature narrative Difret and produced/co-wrote the feature documentary Little White Lie, which recently aired on Independent Lense with record-setting ratings that made it the 7th highest Independent Lens broadcast of all time.

Leelai Demoz


Leelai Demoz has had a varied and illustrious career in the arts, both in front and behind the camera. He was nominated for an Academy and Emmy Award for the film “On TipToe” which premiered on HBO. The film, shot in South Africa, is a profile of the singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Additionally, his work has been seen on MTV, Discovery, BET, VH1, Travel Channel, and Lifetime. He ran Jeremy Piven’s production company, Luscious Mayhem, for several years. He also directed a set of ”˜get out the vote’ public service announcements for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. The spots featured LL Cool J and Alicia Keys.

Angelina Jolie

Executive Producer

Angelina Jolie is a world renowned actress, director, screenwriter and humanitarian. She has received an Acadamy Award, two Sceeen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and is know for her roles in Gia, A Mighty Heart, Changeling, and Salt. Angelina promotes humanitarian causes, and is noted for he work with refugees. In 2001, she was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees and has since been on field visits in more than 30 countries. In 2012, she was promoted to Special Envoy to the High Comissioner. In addition, Angelina serves as Co-Chair of the Clinton Global Intiative’s Education Partnership for Children of Conflict and has built schools and health care facilities in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she founded the Jolie Legal Fellowship, which assists government officials and local NGOs in protecting Haiti’s most vulnerable children. Angelina has been widely recognized for her humanitiarian work, most recently receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and an honorary Academy Award in 2013.

Julie Mehretu

Executive Producer

Julie Mehretu is an Ethiopian-American artist best known for her densely-layered abstract large scale paintings and prints. Her drawings refer to elements of mapping and architecture, achieving a calligraphic complexity that resembles turbulent atmospheres and dense social networks. Her work has appeared in major solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); Arnold & Marie Schwartz Gallery, Metropolitan Opera House, New York (2010); Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009); among others. Mehretu’s awards include the Berlin Prize (2007), from the American Academy in Berlin; a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (2005); and the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005). Julie earned a BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan (1992), and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1997). She lives and works in New York, NY and Berlin, Germany.

Jessica Rankin

Executive Producer

Jessica Rankin is an Australian artist who lives and works in New York. Appropriating methods traditionally identified with feminine pursuits, embroidery and needlework, Rankin’s work and her organdy “embroidered paintings” feature a series of “mental maps”, with codes, signs and symbols that explore ideas of memory, intuition and interpretation.  She has participated in numerous group exhibitions in the US, Europe and Australia. Recent solo exhibitions include White Cube, London (2007), PS1 Contemporary Arts Center, New York (2006) and Franklin Artworks, Minneapolis (2005). Rankin is best known for her organdy ”˜embroidered paintings’ as well as her drawings, watercolors, and editioned prints, sometimes linked to her larger scale works.

Francesca Zampi

Executive Producer

Born and raised in London Francesca’s career started at The Royal Court Theater where she worked in International Play Development with projects In Nigeria, Romania and Syria. She moved to New York in 2006 to work for The Ricochet Group, a marketing and management-consulting firm that specializes in working with artistic and educational not-for-profits. Clients included The Royal Shakespeare Company in New York, The American Repertory Theatre at Harvard and KidsOhio.

A couple of years later Francesca started working with nightspot The Box in New York City in various management capacities. From 2009 she was promoted to lead producer of The Box World Wide, an international events arm of The Box that saw Francesca organizing signature pop-up variety shows during high profile international events such as film festivals, award ceremonies and art fairs in Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Cannes, Shanghai, Los Angeles and Miami. In 2011 she supervised the opening of The Box Soho in London.

Lacey Schwartz

Executive Producer

Lacey Schwartz is a media producer and director with deep experience working for and consulting with a variety of different companies and nonprofit organizations. She is the Managing Director of Truth Aid Be a social venture that leverages media and technology to create innovative solutions to social barriers. Lacey’s prior experience includes serving as the Chief Operating Officer for Max Siegel Inc, (“MSI”) which is the parent company for a number of media initiatives, including a Universal Music distributed record label and Nascar’s Drive for Diversity program through which MSI executive produced the BET television series, Changing Lanes.  In addition, Lacey has produced and developed branded entertainment programs, scripted and reality television series, commercials, feature-length documentaries, narrative films, concert films, live performances, added value DVD content, EPKs, print magazines and interactive websites for a variety of companies including MTV, @Radical Media, Drive Thru Pictures and BETJ.

Prior to her media career, Lacey was a professional DJ and public high school math and theater teacher. Lacey has a BA from Georgetown University and a JD from Harvard Law School. She is a member of the New York State Bar.  She speaks widely on issues of diversity and how to use media to spark dialogue around important social issues and give people tools that lead to personal evolution and social change.

Monika Lenczewska

Director of Photography

Monika is a polish-born cinematographer based in Los Angeles. She graduated with a masters from the department of film and TV at University of Silesia in Poland and completed a MFA at the American Film Institute. Her work has been selected for numerous international film festivals including Cannes, Tribeca, Rotterdam and Cleremont-ferrand. She is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild.

Agnieszka Glinska


Agnieszka is a renowned Polish film editor and a European film industry veteran whose films have premiered at the major festivals around the world including Sundance, Rotterdam, and Karlovy Vary. Poland’s Oscar committee selected her film ALL THAT I LOVE (2009) as the country’s official submission in the Best Foreign Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards.  Her filmography includes YUMA (2012), FATHER, SON AND HOLY COW (2011), BYE BYE DUBLIN (2010) and over a dozen other feature length films.  She is a graduate of the Polish National Film School and is a member of the Polish Editors Society (P.S.M.).

David Schommer and David Eggar


David Schommer: As a Songwriter, Composer, Producer, Percussionist, Keyboardist, Multi instrumental Performer, Engineer and Mix Engineer, David has been blessed with a rich, wide and extensive career in music with many varied experiences. As a Composer, David has scored for film:”¨Difret: Independent (2014 Sundance Nominee),”¨DMT: The Spirit Molecule (Documentary 2010),”¨Accepted: Universal 2006,”¨A Walk to Beautiful (ADA Winner 2007),”¨For Television work:”¨Jeremy Piven’s Journey of a Lifetime (2006),”¨Wide Angle: “the Market Maker”(2009).”¨-As well as many other shorts and industrials. As a Record Producer, David has written and recorded with: Carole King, Nile Rogers, the Baha Men, Static Revenger, Micheal Tolcher and EarthRise SoundSystem, to name a few. His recordings have been licensed for over 25 films and 30 television programs. David has played world tours as a drummer/percussionist, playing on over 50 records so far, including recordings by Janet Jackson, Cher,Gloria Estefan, Masters At Work and Supreme Beings of Leisure. David was a part of the 1st US cast of STOMP performing in over 850 staged Shows. As well as TV’s Late Night, the Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien, the Oscars, the Grammy’s and the Emmy’s.

David Eggar: Two-time Grammy Nominated composer and experimental cellist Dave Eggar has performed throughout the world as a cellist, pianist, song-writer and composer including solo performances of his own compositions at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Barbican Center London, the Hollywood Bowl, the Paris Opera, Aspen Music Festival, Bowdoin Music Festival, Music City Roots, Sun Studios, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall and many others. A virtuoso in many styles Dave has performed and recorded with artists in many genres including Frank Ocean, Evanescence, Phillip Phillips, Josh Groban, Talib Kweli, Tony Bennett, Michael Brecker, Chromeo, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dave Sanborn, Jewel, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Train and many others. Eggar has won grants and fellowships from the National Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Asian Culture Council, the Leonard Bernstein Foundation and Time magazine as a composer. As a child, Dave won ASCAP’s Young Composer’s Competition. Eggar original work has been featured in many films as both an improvising cellist and composer including Roland Emrich’s Anonymous, Beasts of the Southern Wild(composer Dan Romer) The Roost, Triggerman and House of the Devil(Composer Jeff Grace), and Stakeland(Jeff Grace). Eggar scored Jackson’s Breakout film Without in 2011. Eggar is a graduate of Harvard University(BA) and the Juilliard School (DMA).

The Problem

Child marriage, also referred to as early and forced marriage, robs girls of the chance to lead their own lives on their own terms. It also has devastating lifelong consequences. Girls who marry before age 18 are:

  • less likely to complete primary school,
  • more likely to experience unwanted pregnancies,
  • more likely to experience violence,
  • more likely to be and remain poor, and
  • are at greater risk of death or injury in childbirth.

For these reasons, child marriage violates the basic human rights girls have to health, education, safety, and well-being. Yet, 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year. That’s over 38,000 girls every day or 1 girl every 3 seconds!

* UNFPA, Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage, 2012

The Solution

Ending child marriage will require a broad range of solutions that work together to change cultural norms. These solutions include:

Educate and Empower Girls

  • Girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children when compared to girls without an education. Empowering girls with skills, knowledge and confidence is one of most effective ways to end child marriage:

Change Culture

  • Changing culture begins from within. Engaging men and traditional leaders in the community on the importance of delaying the age of marriage where the practice is most prevalent.

Change Laws

  • Advocating for governments to implement laws and policies that prohibit child marriage and protect women and girls from violence.
  • Working with customary courts to educate village court leaders about the impact of child marriage on their communities.

Change Hearts and Mind

  • Raising awareness in your community to help change attitudes and educate others about the harm that child marriage causes.


Take Action