Distributor: Menemsha Films
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Director: Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian
2018, Ethiopia, Israel, Germany, France, 93 minutes, Digital
Language: Amharic (with English subtitles)
Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian’s virtuosic first feature Fig Tree is set during the 1989 Ethiopian civil war. The story finds Mina, a 16-year-old Ethiopian-Jewish teenager, hatching a plan to keep her Christian boyfriend, Eli, from being conscripted into military service under the monstrous Mengistu Haile Mariam’s army. As Mina and her family make preparations to flee war-torn Addis Ababa for Israel, Mina and her boyfriend while away their remaining days together sitting in the shady arms of a large fig tree. Eli can only partake of this time with Mina whenever he is afforded the opportunity to come out of his hiding place in the nearby woods. Mina relishes their moments together but fears the imminence of her departure, hoping she can somehow find a way to get Eli on that plane and start their young lives anew in the relative safety of Israel.
Based in part on the director’s own life and experiences living in Ethiopia during this time of bloodshed, Fig Tree is a stirringly authentic account of a young woman coping with the insanity of war, while trying to protect, in anyway she can, the things that she holds dear. Davidian knows these feelings all too well, having seen first hand that war is not some abstract that exists elsewhere. It is thorough in its depredations and remains present in its devastating effects on those whose lives it touches.
Davidian’s camera quietly observes the effects of the ongoing conflict on the bonds of family, on young love, and on a society struggling to continue, under harrowing conditions. She even touches on the lasting fallout for those that fight, in a particularly emotional passage where Mina and Eli come across a soldier, who can no longer cope with what the conflict has made of his life and his body. This moving and expertly crafted drama garnered a well-deserved Best Picture Ophir nomination (the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar) and signals the arrival of a striking new voice in the world of international cinema. (Scott Braid)
Toronto International Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival
Eurimages Audentia Award for Best Female Director
Toronto International Film Festival 2018
2018 Ophir Awards