The San Francisco Film Society has announced that Ethiopian-American filmmaking team Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and Mehret Mandefro will be in San Francisco October 1 – 14 for the Film Society’s eighth Artist in Residence program. Mehari and Mandefro’s packed two-week schedule will include programs in each of the Film Society’s core areas — education, exhibition and filmmaker services — including visits to Bay Area high school and college classrooms, a screening of their festival hit Difret (October 9), an artist talk (October 13) and various networking events with the local film community. The Fall 2014 Artist in Residence program is made possible by a grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.
“We made a great connection with Zeresenay this spring while he was attending the San Francisco International Film Festival, and are excited to invite him back to take part in the Artist in Residence program along with his wife and producer Mehret,” said SFFS Director of Education Joanne Parsont. “They are a truly dynamic filmmaking team who are doing great work in their home country, and we look forward to engaging them with both the education and filmmaking communities here in San Francisco.”
For complete Artist in Residence information visit sffs.org/Education/Artist-in-Residence.
Zeresenay Berhane Mehari was born and grew up in Ethiopia. He founded Addis Pictures for his first narrative feature film, Difret, which won the 2014 Berlin Film Festival Panorama Audience Award and 2014 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award. He holds a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Dr. Mehret Mandefro is an Ethiopian-American physician and anthropologist who produces visual ethnographies about the social determinants of health. Upon completing her medical training, Mandefro pursued her interest in media as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania where she produced and directed a short documentary film entitled David the Piano Player. She subsequently produced the feature-length documentary film Little White Lie, which will premiere on PBS next year. Mandefro is currently President of Truth Aid, an ethnographic media production company.
Difret (Ethiopia 2014, 96 min.) will be screened Thursday October 9 at7:00 pm at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema (One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level). The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. Tickets are $10 for SFFS members, $12 general, $11 for students and persons with disabilities. Box office now open online at sffs.org.
In rural Ethiopia, a few hours outside of Addis Ababa, men on horseback, following local tradition, kidnap 14-year-old Hirut in a bid to force her to marry another villager. Her attempt to free herself from a preordained future sets off a legal firestorm in this powerful drama inspired by a true story that pits the law against an entrenched cultural mindset. Hirut’s only hope of escaping a dark fate comes in the form of Meaza, a confident young lawyer from the city and an advocate for women’s rights. In taking on Hirut’s case, which has become a cause célèbre, Meaza confronts both the government and entrenched attitudes toward women-attitudes that affect her and her career as much as they do her client. Director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari captures Ethiopia’s scenic beauty, as well as the ugliness of customs that endanger the lives and futures of young women. Based on a true story, Difret — the winner of audience awards at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals — is not only a compelling, suspenseful equal-rights saga, rife with political, cultural and legal insights, but also a hopeful, moving and provocative drama about resilience and the pursuit of justice.
Mehari and Mandefro will also participate in an intimate artist talk Monday October 13, 5:00 pm at FilmHouse (644 Broadway Street at Stockton), in which they will discuss the making of Difret and the production challenges of shooting in Ethiopia, among other subjects. This event is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, visit sffs.org.
Visiting artists are selected based on their filmmaking experience, compelling body of work and desire to share their knowledge with emerging filmmakers and film students. Under the auspices of the Film Society’s Education department, Mehari and Mandefro are scheduled to visit several high school and college classes during their residency. SFFS artists in residence typically take part in 6 – 8 school visits during their time in San Francisco, reaching more than 400 students. In collaboration with Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, Mehari and Mandefro will also have the opportunity to meet and network with Bay Area filmmakers. A lunch discussion with SFFS FilmHouse residents, a happy hour with the broader Bay Area filmmaking community, and various other meet-and-greet events are scheduled to take place over the course of their residency.
The previous SFFS Artists in Residence are Federico Veiroj of Uruguay, Ido Haar of Israel, Oday Rasheed of Iraq, Anna Boden of the U.S., Ashim Ahluwalia of India, Mohamed Diab of Egypt and Sebastián Silva of Chile.