Zemene is a full-length documentary that follows a spirited 10-year old Ethiopian girl, Zemenework (Zemene), as she fights to keep hope alive and survive her life-threatening condition of Kyphosis, a severe curvature of the spine. Set in the beautiful countryside of Ethiopia, the story begins in Zemene’s small rural village of Belessa.
Zemene is a shy, malnourished girl who has a slim chance at a healthy life. She was orphaned at a young age due to her mother’s untimely death and her father’s abandonment, leaving her aging grandparents to raise her. Her childhood was tinged with mockery and bullying from other children. With no health care in her village, Zemene’s kind uncle takes her to the city of Gondar to seek help but they are told nothing can be done to save her.
By complete chance or fate, Zemene’s need for help is unexpectedly met when she crosses paths with Dr. Rick Hodes as she walks past a coffee shop he frequents. Dr. Hodes, a medical internist specializing in spinal conditions, invites Zemene and her uncle to Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. Here Dr. Hodes provides the support and resources she needs to gain physical strength and an education. Once Zemene becomes a surgical candidate, Dr. Hodes arranges for his colleague, Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, a distinguished worldwide spinal specialist, to perform surgery on her spine. Zemene is sent to Dr. Boachie’s clinic in Ghana for the operation.
Five years after her journey began, Zemene, a much healthier, radiant young woman returns to her home to retrace the steps of her past. On this journey she realizes she stands between two worlds: her rural village where young women have few choices, and her life in the city where dreams are attainable through education. We watch Zemene's determination to connect these two worlds by continuing her studies with the belief that she will make a difference for others in her village.
Zemene movingly depicts how individuals offering help to children in need can have a ripple effect, transforming not only individual lives, but communities as well.