Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian On 'Fig Tree,' The Brutality Of War And The Sacrifice Of Filmmaking
War is horrific and cruel. Its brutalities burrow into the memories of everyone it touches, forever changing landscapes and lives left in its wake. From her memories of the end of the Ethiopian Civil War, Ethiopian-Israeli writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian takes an unflinching look at war in her feature film debut, Fig Tree. A sumptuous film about pain and perseverance, Fig Tree was awarded the Audentia Award for Best Female Director at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF). Set in Addis Ababa in 1989, Davidian's film centers around Mina (Betalehem Asmamawe), a 16-year-old girl who is desperate to hold on to both her homeland and Eli (Yohanes Muse), her Christian boyfriend, who is frantically evading being drafted into Mengistu Haile Mariam's army.
Shadow and Act sat down to chat with Davidian about this compelling, coming-of-age story and the sacrifices she made to make this film.
Davidian left war-torn Ethiopia when she was just 11 years old, but Mina's story is quite different from her own. Fig Tree was born out of Davidian's desire to connect to her memories and the feelings from her childhood that still lingered with her.
"I started to go to pharmacy school, but I was rejected," she said. "During that time, I was watching a ton of movies. I was inspired to share the way I viewed the world, especially because I would always see these awful headlines about Ethiopia and Africa. I came from there, and I wanted to share what it was really like, and how it made me feel. It's beautiful, and Amharic is a beautiful language. I felt in my soul that it was something that I needed to share."
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