Spotlight: “A Fire Within” A New Historical Ethiopian American Documentary Premiers at Atlanta Film Festival

A new documentary film, A Fire Within, will premiere at the 45th Atlanta Film Festival with a special event outdoor “Drive-In” screening on April 30th at 8:00pm at the Plaza Theatre Atlanta. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: April 28th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This week A Fire Within, which is executive produced by Liya Kebede and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Chambers, is set to make it’s world premiere at the 45th Atlanta Film Festival with a special event outdoor “Drive-In” screening on April 30th at 8:00pm at the Plaza Theatre Atlanta. In addition, the film will also be available for viewing online.

The new documentary A Fire Within brings to life the dramatic and widely reported story of three Ethiopian women in the U.S. that played out in an Altanta courtroom in the 1990′s when one of the women Hirute Abebe-Jira sued a former Ethiopian police official named Kelbessa Negewo as the person who tortured her in prison during the ″Red Terror″ era in Ethiopia.

At the time the Associated Press reported that “the suit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows aliens to seek relief in federal court for human rights violations in other countries. According to the suit, Negewo commanded police forces in part of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa” during that period.

As the press release notes:

“A FIRE WITHIN recounts the remarkable coincidence when Edjegayehu “Edge” Taye, Elizabeth Demissie, and Hirut Abebe-Jiri, three Ethiopian women who immigrate to the United States after surviving torture in their home country, discover the man responsible for their torture is living in America and working at the same restaurant as Edge in midtown Atlanta’s Colony Square Hotel. In Ethiopia, Kelbessa Negewo was a government official who tortured and executed scores of civilians during “The Red Terror”. At the Colony Square Hotel, he was the dish washer.

After confirming Negewo’s identity, the women vowed to find a way to bring him to justice. Atlanta-based lawyers Miles Alexander, Laurel Lucey and Michael Tyler at Kilpatrick Townsend law firm, along with ACLU Director Paul Hoffman, took the women’s case pro bono. Their legal strategy would hinge on the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, a section from America’s first Judiciary Act. Since 1979 (Filártiga v. Peña-Irala), American human rights lawyers have used the Alien Tort Statute to bring cases against human rights violators. The film documents the women’s harrowing journey to justice, bringing them face to face with their own torturer in what became a historic trial in modern American human rights law.

“Making this film has been a powerful, humbling experience,” said Chistopher Chambers, director. “The resilience of these three women, refusing to be intimidated into silence by their abuser, relentlessly pursuing justice, while struggling to start new lives as immigrants and refugees, is nothing less than heroic. These women represent the best of what “American values” can and should be.”

A FIRE WITHIN is executive produced by Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede. Kebede is also an award-winning actress, former World Health Organization (WHO) Ambassador, women’s rights activist, and founder and creative director of lemlem fashion brand.

I was so touched and moved by this story,” said Kebede. “We don’t often get to hear about such stories — the “other” stories. The stories that do not get told. It is very rewarding to be a part of this film and to bring the story of these courageous women to light.”

A FIRE WITHIN was filmed using interviews, archival footage and narrative recreations in 10 cities across the globe, including Atlanta, Georgia; Ottawa, Canada; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, narrative recreations were filmed with a locally-hired, all-Ethiopian cast and crew.

You can learn more about the film and screening at

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