TIFF 2018: Fig Tree (Etz Teena)

Fig Tree, Courtesy of TIFF.

Set during the Ethiopian civil war, Fig Tree tells the coming-of-age story of a Jewish teenager looking to save her non-Jewish boyfriend.

Writer-director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian makes her award-winning feature debut by taking viewers back to 1989.  Set in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, the film focuses on Mina.  When the Jewish teenager learns of her family’s plan to make aliyah in Israel, she fears the worst for her boyfriend, Eli.  This is because Eli is likely to be forced into joining Mengistu Haile Mariam’s army.  While moving to Israel would solve her family’s problem of dealing with the Ethopian civil war, it doesn’t solve Eli’s problems.

Religion plays a large role in the film.  This is because of the strict rules that Israel has when it comes to making aliyah.  While Mina and her family are fine, Eli isn’t.  We can look at the role immigration plays in the film for that matter.  On the one hand, it means that one looks to live a better life in another country.  On the other hand, it’s tragic that your own country has failed you as a citizen.  Unfortunately, this is where we’re at by the end of the film.

Fig Tree serves as a stellar feature directorial debut for the Ethiopian-Israeli filmmaker.  For her directorial debut, Davidian was awarded the third TIFF Eurimages’ Audentia Award for Best Female Director.  Moreover, the film saw four nominations for the Israeli Ophir Awards–the Oscars equivalent–while ultimately losing out to The Cakemaker.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian
CAST:  Betalehem Asmamawe, Yohanes Muse, Weyenshiet Belachew, Mareta Getachew, Mitiku Haylu, Kidest G/Selasse, Tilahune Asagere, Rodas Gizaw

Fig Tree held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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