Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival: Fig Tree

Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian, Israel, 2018, 93 min., in Amharic and Hebrew w/English subtitles

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GPJFF Lindy CineMondays Spotlight Film

Ethiopian-Israeli director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian’s breakout film, Fig Tree, has left audiences speechless throughout the world. Set in Addis Ababa at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War, Davidian’s remarkably assured debut follows a Jewish Ethiopian teenager as she attempts to save her boyfriend from being drafted, while she and her family await their turn to flee the country. With a civil war raging from the day she was born, 16-year-old Mina (Betalehem Asmamawe) has grown accustomed to her precarious surroundings. Residing with her grandmother and brother in a humble house with newsprint for wallpaper, Mina relishes her outings with Eli (Yohannes Musa), her Christian boyfriend and one and only true love. Forced to live in the woods so as to evade being captured by Mengistu Haile Mariam's army, Eli expresses his affection for Mina under the shade and protection of the couple’s special fig tree. 
Having spent her formative years in war-torn Ethiopia (Davidian left the country when she was 11), the director’s unsentimental approach to expressing the plight of her young heroine draws on her own stark memories and impressions. It is through her sharp and wildly perceptive gaze that we are given a chance to better understand the impact of civil war on the lives of ordinary Ethiopian Jews awaiting refuge in Israel.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Atlanta Jewish Film Festival | Haifa International Film Festival | Jerusalem Film Festival | Locarno Film Festival | Miami Jewish Film Festival | New York Jewish Film Festival | Toronto International Film Festival
AWARDS: Best Cinematography – Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards) | Eurimages Audentia Award – Toronto International Film Festival
REVIEW: “A potent glimpse of adolescence amid civil war.” (Dennis Harvey, Variety)