Press Releases

Democracy without borders

Content language:





During the 67th edition of the Festival del film Locarno, a special event will be organized in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Sunday, 10 August, the Ethiopian film Difret, by Zerezenay Berhane Mehari, will be presented in a special screening and followed by a panel discussion with the director, the producer of the film Mehret Mandefro, as well as Navi Pillay – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Venantie Bisimwa Nabintu – executive secretary of the Congolese NGO “Réseau des Femmes pour la défense des Droits et la Paix”, Danaé van der Straten Ponthoz – legal Adviser at the NGO TRIAL, and Giancarlo De Picciotto – Head of the Swiss Cooperation Office of the Great Lakes region.

Difret, the debut feature film from Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, is the story of an Ethiopian female lawyer who defends a 14-year-old girl charged with killing a man who attempts to abduct her into marriage. Difret is only the fourth film shot in 35mm to have ever been made in Ethiopia – in the official language, Amharic. The word “difret” has two meanings: “courageous” but also “to be raped”. Based on actual events, the film enquires about the nation’s possible emergence into the modern world and about what happens when centuries-old traditions are broken and belief systems are abandoned. It has won the prize for best fiction film in the Panorama Audience Award of the Berlin Film Festival and won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival.

Difret is one of the films selected for the Open Doors screenings, dedicated in 2014 to Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular to the English and Portuguese speaking countries. Open Doors is a section of the Locarno film festival, supported by the SDC since its inception, that supports directors and producers from countries in the South and the East, where independent filmmaking is vulnerable.

The discussion, which will follow the screening, will be based on the problem of impunity in cases of violation of women’s rights, one of the main issues addressed in the film.

It will be an occasion to deepen the discussion about the different challenges women face in Africa and around the globe, not only within the conflict between tradition and modernity, as presented in the film, but also deriving from violent conflicts. In wars and conflict zones a specific type of violation is observed and mostly left unpunished: sexual violence against women and girls – but also men and boys – is often used as a systematic weapon of warfare. However, sexual violence is by no means a phenomenon of war only, but often persists in the aftermath of conflicts. Constituting a severe violation of human rights and international law, sexual violence has devastating long-term effects on the victims, their families and communities. Even though some progress has been made in the fight against impunity for sexual violence, it remains one of the biggest challenges in tackling the issue.

The round table following the screening will be the first of a series of events held during the year by the initiative Democratie Sans Frontières / Democracy without borders, launched by Didier Burkhalter, President of the Swiss Confederation and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of the initiative is to associate nationally and internationally renowned Swiss personalities with development projects aimed at strengthening democracy, peace and human rights. These collaborations will help to raise awareness of the challenges, which need addressing among people in Switzerland and in Switzerland’s partner countries alike.



Sunday, 10 August

16:30 – L’altra Sala
Greeting of the Festival's President Marco Solari, introduction by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter and screening of the film Difret by Zerezenay Berhane Mehari

18:40 – L’altra Sala
Podium discussion on “Democracy Without Borders”
Hosted by Reto Ceschi (RSI); with Zerezenay Berhane Mehari (filmmaker), Mehret Mandefro (producer), Navi Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Venantie Bisimwa Nabintu (Executive Secretary of the Congolese NGO “Réseau des Femmes pour la Défense des Droits et la Paix”), Danaé van der Straten Ponthoz (Legal Adviser at the NGO TRIAL), and Giancarlo De Picciotto (Head of the Swiss Cooperation Office of the Great Lakes region).

19:45 – Spazio Cinema (Forum)


Press Office
67° Festival del film Locarno
6 – 16 | 8 | 2014
Via Ciseri 23 | CH-6601 Locarno
tel +41 91 756 21 21 | fax +41 91 756 21 49 |