2016 Los Angeles Film Festival
Directed by Nagwa Ibrahim and Salome Mulugeta, Woven (2016) is one of the first feature-length narrative films about Ethiopian Americans.
When we meet the Tariku family, they appear happy and prosperous living in New York. There’s a hint of a conflict between matriarch Smra (Ethiopian theater actress Alemtsehay Wedajo) and her adult daughter Elenie (co-director Mulugeta) over her marriage prospects. Elder brother Abell is head of the family. Watching the Tarikus celebrate, we’re immersed in Ethiopian music, food and language. Then tragedy strikes, leaving Elenie and Smra suddenly adrift.
As with most immigrant stories, there’s a generational conflict about preserving the home culture. Elenie is a psychologist and isn’t in a rush to get married. She also sees herself as much American as Ethiopian, perhaps more so. Despite that, she wants her mother’s approval. The older woman has become fragile since the tragedy. With Smra pushing her to find an acceptable mate from their community, Elenie becomes attracted to a married neighbor who isn’t exactly what he seems.
Woven is a complex, character driven film that goes in surprising directions with elements of melodrama and thriller. The mystery deepens as Elenie becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her brother.