Police shut down the Ethiopia premier of the film Difret, produced by Angelina Jolie, midway through the event on Wednesday, the Ethiopian news site Awramba Times reported.
In a recording of the event published by Awramba Times, director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari told the audience that the police had a court order to stop the event, though the exact cause for the closure remains unclear.
Difret tells the story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl who is abducted and forced into marriage. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience award. Jolie was the executive producer for the film, which was produced by Haile Addis Pictures.
Child marriage is a common practice in Ethiopia (despite being illegal) and remains a taboo topic. The Ethiopian government is also quick to crack down on any dissent and provides little room for freedom of expression.
A video shared by Awramba Times shows people smiling for photographs before the premiere at the National Theatre in the capital, Addis Ababa. Then the video cuts to a pre-recorded message from Angelina Jolie, who did not attend the event.
“I hope you will continue to make films that will advance the art of film-making, share untold stories of Ethiopia, and shed light on our common humanity,” Jolie told the audience.
Then the video cuts again to the director, Mehari, who, with his child in one hand and a microphone in the other, speaks in Amharic and then English to tell the audience that the government has canceled the event.
“Um, hold on one second. Distinguished guests, ambassadors, this is really embarrassing. We were just told by police that we need to stop this film because there is a court order on it. We have not been informed of this prior. The ministry of culture knows about this. The government knows about this. Everyone knows about this. And this is the first time we are hearing about this. This is obviously an attack on us and I’m really sorry for this to happen. I hope we will be able to see you again.”
The audience appears shocked and the camera continues to film as people exit the building. The man behind the camera asks several people what they think of what happened — and they all decline to directly answer. “I will reserve my comments to myself,” said one man.
BuzzFeed has reached out to Angelina Jolie and Haile Addis Pictures for comment.
- World leaders are gathering in Paris for the United Nations summit on climate change 🌍 ›