Ethiopian Filmmakers Bound for the Bay

Filmmakers Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and Mehret Mandefro will arrive in the Bay Area  next month.

Filmmakers Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and Mehret Mandefro will arrive in the Bay Area  next month.

We at SFFS are thrilled to announce 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! The duo’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.

“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.”

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.

Still from Difret (Ethiopia 2014, 96 min.). The film will screen at Thursday October 9 at 7:00 pm atLandmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. Tickets available through SFFS.

Still from Difret (Ethiopia 2014, 96 min.). The film will screen at Thursday October 9 at 7:00 pm atLandmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. Tickets available through SFFS.

The couple’s film Difret takes place in rural Ethiopia, a few hours outside of Addis Ababa, where men on horseback kidnap 14-year-old Hirut in a bid to force her to marry another villager. Based on a true story, the film 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. SFFS was honored to screen Difret at SFIFF57, and we are so excited to watch this film again and hear what Zeresenay and Mehret have to say about it.

If you miss the film, catch Mehari and Mandefro at our wonder new FilmHouse space for a (free!) intimate artist talk. The filmmakers will rehash the making of Difret and the production challenges of shooting in Ethiopia, among other things.

Under the auspices of the Film Society’s Education department, Mehari and Mandefro will also be making the rounds at several Bay Area high schools and colleges 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. And in collaboration with Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, the pair will have the opportunity to meet and network with local filmmakers. Lunches, happy hours, and meet-and-greets galore.

We are truly looking forward to keeping these guys busy. Catch them while you can on this rare trip to the Bay!


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. The Fall 2014 Artist in Residence program is made possible by a grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.

Previous SFFS Artists in Residence include 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